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The Kuna School District announced Monday plans to transition to distance learning over the coming weeks.

After an Idaho State Board of Education order last week shut down in-person classes statewide until April 20, the district started planning for a shift to online classes. While school doors were already locked to students last week during spring break, COVID-19 concerns lengthened students’ hiatus from classes for at least another week as district leaders work to adapt.

The first phase of the district’s plan is set for this week. Administrators met privately Monday to discuss the transition, and on Tuesday, admins talked with teachers on how to move forward. Parents should receive more information Wednesday from their children's teachers on how to take part in an optional distance-learning test run the following week.

From April 6-10, the district plans to roll out optional distance learning classes for students, though the way they look is yet to be determined by individual instructors.

Access to technology

In the wake of this unprecedented fourth quarter of school and the similarly unprecedented level of online teaching that a digital shift will spur, questions of access have come to the forefront.

Superintendent Wendy Johnson, in a March 26 letter to parents, acknowledged uncertainty about access to technology.

“Not everyone is equipped with computers and reliable online access to support distance learning or working from home,” Johnson wrote.

Parents were encouraged to take an online survey that asked questions about their ability to provide or share an internet-enabled device with their student, and whether their household has internet access at all. The survey was due March 29.

The district has a limited number of Chromebooks to distribute to students based on the results of the survey, said district spokeswoman Allison Westfall. The number of available devices may grow, though. The Kuna Chamber of Commerce announced a partnership with Hewlett-Packard and the school district to repurpose donated computers and provide them to students. Those interested may donate computers, keyboards and parts which will be wiped of personal information by HP employees. The district is hoping to accept donations April 2 in the gym of Indian Creek Elementary, though donors can confirm the drop-off date with Kuna Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kerri Keller at info@kunachamber.com.

Parents will be encouraged to help their kids use free Wi-Fi at the following locations:

  • Kuna High School: student parking lot
  • Fremont Middle School: curbside and outside of cafeteria
  • Hubbard/Indian Creek/Reed/Crimson Point/Silver Trail: front curbside
  • Ross: Bus drop off area
  • Initial Point/Kuna Middle: front parking lot
  • 4th St. Gym

The district also hopes to expand Wi-Fi access and partner with internet providers to give parents low-cost plans.

Special ed

At both the state and local levels, concerns over how special education programs will adapt as they go online have surfaced. The issue came up at the Idaho State Board of Education’s meeting last week, and the Kuna School District included plans in its announcement to adapt learning plans to meet students’ needs.

“In phase one, we are contacting our special education families to identify their needs,” Westfall told the Kuna Melba News by email. “As we move into Phase 2 and Phase 3, our plan is to offer a teacher directed alternate mode of instruction for all students including students with disabilities. The Office for Civil Rights and Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services understand that, during this national emergency, schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner they are typically provided.”

Parents with students on Individualized Education Plans will be contacted individually about how to proceed, said Johnson’s March 26 letter.

Conversations on how to adapt teaching for English language learners are also underway, according to Johnson's letter. 

Concerns for food-insecure students have also been voiced. The Kuna School District responded by providing free meals for kids until schools reopen. Recipients don’t need to be Kuna School District students, but they do have to be present. Children age 18 or younger can pick up a grab-and-go bag with breakfast and lunch from 11 a.m. to noon on weekdays at the following locations:

  • Ross Elementary, 610 N. School Ave.
  • Reed Elementary, 1670 Linder Road
  • Kuna High School, 637 E. Deer Flat Road

While more changes are likely to come, the district plans to continue communicating with students’ parents via letters sent home and posted on the district’s website, kunaschools.org.

Blake Jones is the reporter for Kuna Melba News. You can reach him at bjones@idahopress.com and stop by during his office hours, Wed. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and Thu. 9 a.m.-12 p.m., at our Kuna newsroom, 326 Avenue D. Call ahead at 208-922-3008.

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