Boise Chromebook pickup

A student picks up a Chromebook at a Boise School District building on Wednesday.

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On Monday, Aug. 3, the Boise School Board will put its collective heads together to consider one of the most pressing issues of the summer: whether K-12 students will start the 2020-21 school year in classrooms or in front of computer screens. 

Earlier this month, Gov. Brad Little announced it was his goal and intention to send public school students back to classrooms for in-person instruction in the fall, but as the Monday, Aug. 17, start to the academic year has drawn closer, the intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic has grown. Nationally, deaths due to the disease recently surpassed 150,000; and in Idaho, nearly 20,000 cases and 173 deaths have been reported. 

That has stirred robust debate about the national, state and local handling of the pandemic, and the safety of students and educators. On July 24, Little announced an influx of money and supplies for schools gearing up for the first day of school, but according to Idaho Education Association Board President Layne McInelly, those initiatives have not ameliorated the concerns of educators themselves, which include the high numbers of new reported cases across the state each day and low adherence to public health measures like wearing face masks.

"Educators are the first people to say they want to be in the classroom, but they want to go back to school when it's safe, when it's safe for them, their families and the students," he told Boise Weekly

Now, the Boise School District has called on the public for testimony regarding in-person versus virtual learning, and will also consider input from medical professionals, Central District Health and other public health stakeholders.

People interested in submitting testimony may do so by noon on Aug. 3 at sharon.mast@boiseschools.org, or by mail at Boise School District, Board of Trustees, Attn. Clerk of Board Sharon Mast, 8169 W. Victory Road, Boise, ID 83702. Those who'd like to testify live during the board meeting may email Mast or call 208-854-4123.

Though the meeting will be conducted in person by members of the board, it will only be accessible to the public electronically, since the District Service Center does not have the space to accommodate social distancing. 

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