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NAMPA — Students in Nampa and Caldwell will see more in-person learning days after spring break.

The Caldwell School District board of trustees on Monday approved a four-day, in-person school schedule for elementary students, with a fifth day of learning from home. The new schedule will start March 29, the first day back from spring break.

In the Nampa School District, where elementary students are already back four days a week, secondary students also will return four days a week starting March 29.

The Vallivue School District has elementary students back four days a week. Its board will meet Friday to decide whether to send secondary students back to school full time.

The Middleton School District has had all students back in person four days a week for several weeks; the district moved to a permanent four-day schedule last fall.

For the Caldwell and Nampa districts, the last day of the school year is May 26 and May 27, respectively, which means students who return March 29 will only have two months of school in-person before the end of the year.

In a Caldwell School District staff survey, 34% of respondents were very comfortable with returning to school, and 17% were not comfortable. The rest of the respondents ranked their comfort on a scale from two to four, with two being less comfortable and four being comfortable — 20% ranked their comfort level at four, 18% ranked three and 9% ranked two.

When asked, “What would you like decision makers to know?” many responded that they were worried about returning in person, while others said they were worried about students continuing to learn online because they see how far behind they are falling.

“Students need consistent structure right now! Whether that is 100% online or in-person, it matters that it stays the same rather than back and forth so much,” said one respondent.

“With new variants, I believe it would be wise to stay with what we are doing right now and plan to return to full next year,” another respondent said.

The Nampa School District staff survey about secondary students returning was much closer, with 49% of staff saying they would prefer to stay in hybrid compared to 51% who would like to return full time.

The move to in-person learning in Canyon County follows national trends, with many districts starting to bring students back.

VACCINE SHORTAGES

Vaccines have been available for teachers and school staff since Jan. 13, according to Idaho Education News, though many teachers and staff have yet to receive both doses of the vaccine. Several staff survey respondents said they have not been able to schedule their vaccine, due to high demand and low supply of vaccine doses.

Most districts are not tracking who gets the COVID-19 vaccine. About 86% of teachers and staff in the Nampa School District had indicated at one point to the district that they were interested in receiving the vaccine and some received their second dose last week, said district spokeswoman Kathleen Tuck.

Caldwell School District staff was surveyed earlier this month about vaccines. The survey asked “did you choose to receive the COVID vaccine?” and out of 434 responses, 293 said yes, according to Allison Westfall, spokesperson for the school district. Of those who said yes, 199 were teachers, she said.

“Not all staff took the survey and certainly staff may have received the vaccine after the survey closed,” she said.

LACK OF SOCIAL DISTANCING

In the survey, Caldwell School District staff expressed concern about the inability to keep students six feet apart if they return full time. The board voiced the same concern but ultimately decided to return in person.

“There are a lot of parent comments that wanted us to make sure their students are safe, but we cannot say for certain that we are sure your students are safe,” said trustee Manuel Godina.

Superintendent Shalene French agreed, saying, “We can’t guarantee physical distancing.”

To address concerns, both districts will have one day each week where students are all learning online, to give teachers a day without students in the building.

According to Southwest District Health, as of last Thursday, the Nampa School District has three staff cases of COVID-19 and 12 student cases. Caldwell had one student case, Middleton had one staff member case and Vallivue had one staff case and four student cases. In Canyon County, 219 staff were in quarantine and 61 were in isolation.

Staffing is a concern for all districts in the county as they address quarantine and COVID-19 cases among staff members.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct an incorrect statement about Vallivue School District secondary students not returning to school full time this year.

Rachel Spacek is the Latino Affairs and Canyon County reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at rspacek@idahopress.com. Follow her on twitter @RachelSpacek.

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