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West Ada School District pushes start of school year to Sept. 8

The school district made the decision after a five-hour-long meeting on Tuesday. Exactly what school will look like when students return, though, remains to be seen.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Students in the West Ada School District will return to school on September 8, but how they will return is still up in the air. 

After a five-hour meeting, the West Ada School Board approved a plan to delay the start of the fall semester from August 27 to September 8. 

Board members will discuss what that reopening plan will look like at the next board meeting on August 25.

“One of the things that we continue to talk about is nothing that we're going to do this year can be looked through the lens of how we've always done it,” said Bret Heller,  assistant superintendent of the West Ada School District.

When school starts back up on Sept. 8, it will be under one of two different color-coded plans: Red or Yellow. The red plan is a worst-case scenario for when there is "substantial community transmission" of COVID-19. Under that plan, all school buildings are closed and learning will be conducted entirely online. The yellow plan is a hybrid option indicating there is "minimal to moderate community transmission" of the coronavirus. That plan would avoid a complete school closure, and may include an alternating schedule with students spending part of the week in class and part of the week online.

The board will make a final determination of which plan to start the school year with at its Aug. 25 meeting. Parents concerned about the in-person option are urged to utilize the district's Virtual Schoolhouse.

RELATED: Boise School Board votes to start school year online

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The school board also discussed a number of other topics, including building layouts, transportation, the use of face coverings, and athletics.

“Everything in me wants to be able to, as soon as we possibly can, open our buildings safely," West Ada Trustee Steve Smylie said. "I realize that might be weeks, it might be a month, a semester. Our purpose is to provide for our children and give them the best possible education that we can possibly give them."

Smylie added that, in order to safely bring kids back for in-person learning, it will be necessary to provide for physical distancing in schools, along with proper disinfecting, masks, and the other things that may be needed in order to follow Central District Health recommendations

The board reached Tuesday's decision by taking into consideration guidance from medical professionals and a recommendation from the West Ada School District administration, according to the West Ada School District's website.

School board members at Tuesday's meeting said the delay will give the district additional time to train staff and to deploy necessary technology.

"We cannot fail, we have to be successful in whatever we choose," Superintendent Dr. Mary Ann Ranells said. "Anything we can do to set ourselves up for success would be the best."

Tuesday’s meeting came hours after the president of the Idaho Education Association announced schools in COVID-19 hot spots should begin with remote learning. They define hot spots as areas where the positivity rate for virus testing is above 5%.

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