Kuna High School

Kuna High School

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KUNA — The Kuna School District will keep grades 6-12 in a hybrid model for now, after the school board Monday night unanimously voted to establish a task force to investigate best practices concerning reopening.

No trustees motioned to reverse the board’s decision to keep secondary students in a hybrid model, which it solidified earlier this month. Elementary students are already back five days a week.

The board unanimously OK’d creating the advisory group after new parent concerns caused trustees to call a special meeting. Administrators opened by discussing a petition launched by Kuna City Councilman Warren Christensen, which called on the district to either reopen schools full-time or create a task force. As of Monday, the petition had pulled 163 signatures, under 2% of the district population, Superintendent Wendy Johnson said.

Christensen has a child who is a high school freshman in the district who “really needs the full time,” he commented on a Facebook post sharing the petition.

The task force will include four parents, four teachers and other representatives, split across schools and school levels. Shelley Hopkins, president of the Kuna Education Association, the local teachers union, also will be included.

“The goal would not be to overturn the decision of the board,” Johnson said, “but rather to investigate some possible solutions to the interest that has been expressed.”

Johnson declined to set a deadline for the task force to make a recommendation to the board, arguing the high stakes of school reopening decisions necessitate time for deliberation.

The board will next meet March 9, the same day area voters will weigh a $2.5 million supplemental levy meant to replace the district’s expiring levy of the same amount.

Before the board on Feb. 9 voted 3-2 to keep secondary students in an alternating-day schedule, Trustee Kim Nixon worried aloud how the board’s decision could shape the levy vote.

“I don’t want us to … have people upset that, ‘Oh, they didn’t listen to us … therefore I’m not going to listen to them come levy time,’” Nixon said.

Even if the levy is approved, rising health care costs for staff and an expected enrollment increase may force the district to eliminate five of its 20 teacher positions funded by the current levy, along with making cuts to kindergarten programs, administrators have said. Even though the enrollment increase would mean more state funding, it would still put more demands on the levy revenue.

The Boise and West Ada school boards plan to expand in-person instruction in March. Boise School District elementary and special education students will return five days a week March 9; secondary students will come back March 29. In West Ada, secondary students will return March 30, assuming district case spread remains low and staff are able to be vaccinated two weeks before then.

When the Kuna school board last floated a full-time return, it considered bringing back students after spring break, the week of March 29, per Central District Health guidance.

Blake Jones covers Kuna and Meridian for the Idaho Press. You can reach him at bjones@idahopress.com and follow him on Twitter @jonesblakej.

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