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'I'm kind of panicked': Boise School District parent scrambles to find a way to make virtual learning work

The school board made the decision Tuesday to start the year virtually. Central District Health recommended this due to the spread of COVID-19.

BOISE, Idaho — After Tuesday night’s decision where the Boise School Board voted to start the year virtually, some parents in the district are scrambling trying to find a way to make it work for them.

The district decided to go with a virtual start due to safety concerns because of how widespread COVID-19 is in Boise. They did this after listening to the recommendations from medical professionals and Central District Health.

However, starting virtually is creating hardships for some parents like Erin Goodell.

“Today's been really hard, so I actually just got notice to deploy out,” she said. “I fly to Delaware tomorrow for two weeks.”

Goodell is a catastrophe adjuster. She's heading out to Delaware to help people after the state was hit by Hurricane Isaias.

“I go assess all the damages and I write them a check and get them started with the services and get them payment to start moving forward towards normalcy,” she said.

Goodell is also a mom of a 7-year-old in the district.

“I'm kind of panicked because I'm trying to pack for two weeks, get people taken care of that need services, and then also try to figure out what I'm going to do with my daughter because I can't just take her with me,” she said.

On top of work and traveling to an area hit by a natural disaster, she and her husband must figure out a way to get their daughter set up for virtual learning when both are working parents.

“It breaks my heart that I have to leave tomorrow and I absolutely have no idea what we're going to be doing with her,” Goodell said. “She doesn't have an option to stay home.”

The board made their decision after a four-hour long meeting and hearing from more than 40 different people. Many of them were parents. Some wanted the virtual setting to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I urge the Boise School District to choose a remote fall semester,” Holly Paquette said.

Paquette’s daughter is going into her senior year at Boise High School. Paquette told the board she’s spent many nights arguing with herself what the best option is. She wants her daughter to have a normal senior year, but also said that due to the positivity rate of the coronavirus in the city, opening schools won’t be safe for students or staff.

While the board took the decision the public health experts recommended, it doesn’t make it any easier on families like Goodell’s.

“Today's been kind of a very emotional, I saw the writing on the wall with the meeting last night and I still just broke down crying,” she said. “A big emotion for me is I don’t understand why they can go to Roaring Springs, why they can go to the mall, why they can go to daycare, why those things can be essential but school is not.”

She isn’t calling for other businesses to be forced to close, but to her it doesn’t make sense that a majority of businesses are open while schools in the Boise School District will be closed to start the year.

“The thought process does not make sense because I don’t understand how things are going to get better,” she said. “If we can continue to resume living our lives but we can’t send our kids to school.”

Goodell spent the day juggling between setting up her trip to the East Coast to help people and trying to figure out the best solution for her family here in Idaho. Because of the timing, she said it’ll mostly fall to her husband.

“He’s got to start doing that, so I’ve already been sent 24 claims,” she said. “I have people that are out of power and their homes were stripped through and need services set up. I’m trying to focus and balance both, but unfortunately it’s going to fall back on him at this point.”

Another top concern for Goodell is how good of an education her daughter will receive in a virtual format.

“Like how are we going to get 7-year old’s to sit there and watch during the day and learn and be engaged,” she said.

In a release, the district said they understand their decision to start virtually will be tough on a lot of families. The district is assisting families with childcare, food, social and emotional support by working with local community childcare providers, Boise Community Schools and Boise Food & Nutrition Services.

Families who are in immediate need can also call the Boise Schools Foundation’s SAFE hotline at (208) 472-2233. Once someone calls, they’ll be connected with a social worker. This service is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Swahili.

The district plans on doing virtual learning for the first three weeks and then bringing students back for in-person learning on Sept. 8. This depends on how safe it is though. The district will continue to meet with medical professionals and the health district to make an informed decision.

The district has also extended the deadline for families who want to either add their kid to the Boise Online School or take them out of it. The new deadline is Friday, August 7 at noon.

Parents interested must contact the student’s school in order to register. After this deadline, students will be in the online school all semester. They can switch for the second semester in December.

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