Idaho considers closing schools for rest of the academic year. Decision will come Monday.

Idaho considers closing schools for rest of the academic year. Decision will come Monday.

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Morely Nelson

The Boise School District has closed all of its schools, including Morley Nelson Elementary, above. 

BOISE — The Idaho State Board of Education will debate closing its public schools for the rest of the academic year during a special board meeting Monday.

Information posted on the State Board’s website Friday shows two possible votes as Idaho tries to limit the coronavirus pandemic.

It could shutter school buildings for the rest of the year. Or it could extend the statewide closure to a to-be-determined date. That to-be-determined date would include when local and state social distancing orders expire and “re-entry criteria established by the board have been met.”

The state agency originally closed all of Idaho’s public schools until April 20 under a “soft closure.” That soft closure bars instruction on campus. But it allows schools to continue online or remote education and distribute meals to students.

The two votes before the State Board are also for soft closures.

“As the pandemic has progressed, additional models and guidance from state health officials indicate the virus is likely to peak in Idaho in late April to early May,” meeting materials posted on the State Board’s website read. “At the time the board set (the) April 20 date, it committed to re-evaluate the timeline as the crisis developed in Idaho. The board will have the opportunity to discuss the timeline in light of the updated information as well as additional areas of consideration that have been identified during the Governor’s K-12 Emergency Council meetings.”

The State Board hinted at its most recent meeting that it could extend the closure to at least the end of the month to follow the latest federal social distancing guidelines.

As of Thursday, 10 states have ordered schools closed for the rest of the academic year, including western states like Arizona and New Mexico, according to Education Week. California and Nebraska have also recommended statewide school closures.

Idaho law requires students to complete a set number of mandatory hours in school. The State Board will also vote Monday whether to request Gov. Brad Little use his emergency powers to waive those requirements.

Three Idaho schools have come into known contact with the coronavirus. Employees at Vallivue Middle School in Caldwell and Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls have tested positive for the virus. Someone who visited Middleton Middle School also later tested positive. The Middleton School District declined to say if it was an employee or a visitor.

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