RUPERT — The Minidoka County School Board opted on Monday night to open schools in the district on Aug. 20 during the COVID-19 pandemic on a regular schedule with an online learning option after South Central Public Health District placed the county in the high risk category last week.
Minidoka County School District Administrator James Ramsey said the board discussed a modified schedule that would have split students into A and B groups and alternating between classroom time and studying at home four days a week with all students studying online during the fifth day. However, the board opted to open schools on Monday with a traditional five-day class schedule for all students, except those signed up for the online learning option.
The online option will close on Friday.
Ramsey said the board will review the health department’s next risk assessment due out on Aug. 27 and make adjustments as needed.
Ramsey said the district’s original plan was also revised to include three risk categories, green, yellow and red, instead of the four risk categories initially outlined.
It will be mandatory for teachers and staff to wear a mask and the district has also purchased face shields.
“They can wear both if they want,” Ramsey said.
The district has also acquired extra hand sanitizer and soap.
Ramsey said there is some apprehension in starting back to school for some teachers.
“This is all new to them too but we are trying to put all the safety protocols in place to put their minds at ease,” he said.
It is highly recommended for students to wear masks and the schools will implement social distancing as much as possible.
Sports, he said, fall into the provisions outlined in the yellow category, which still allows fans to attend competitions.
If the district moves into the red or high risk category it is prepared to make the transition to total online learning, Ramsey said.
“This spring when we went to online learning it was all new territory and we were learning by doing,” he said. “Now we have some experience with it.”
Ramsey said if the district is required to shift again to complete online learning there will be a higher degree of “rigor and relevance” applied to the online curriculum and more accountability, while offering students the flexibility and the help they need.
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