Educators Rally to Support Their Students
Routines for school schedules and daily life have been turned upside down by the COVID-19 public health crisis and the steps taken to protect the safety of Idaho educators, students, and communities. The resulting turmoil has made the 2019-2020 school year one professional educators will not soon forget.
Once it became apparent that COVID-19 was a significant threat to the health of Americans, even as both testing and confirmed cases lagged in Idaho, the IEA recognized that drastic action was needed to ensure that the health of educators and students was protected to the greatest extent possible. On March 15, the IEA issued a public statement calling for the closure of all schools in the state. Many individual districts decided to heed that advice, closing for additional dates surrounding spring break and beginning the process of figuring out ways to care for and educate students in an unprecedented shutdown.
As confirmed cases in Idaho became more common and eventually community spread of COVID-19 was identified, the State Board of Education declared a “soft closure” of all public schools and Gov. Brad Little announced a “stay-at-home” order to protect public health. That combination brought about a realization that school closures were going to be a longer-term reality and led districts and educators to develop plans for delivering emergency instruction to students. Those plans included new and existing digital platforms along with hard copy lesson packets distributed to students at school sites or on bus routes. Districts also scrambled to address technology shortcomings for some students—an ongoing issue exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.
All around the state, educators stepped up to make sure baseline services of nutrition and support were being delivered to Idaho children. Then they began the process of connecting with students—by phone, email, text, home visits (with safe social distancing, of course)—whatever it takes. While some of the structure and rigor may have been missing, educators have made sure their students remain engaged and look to limit the potential learning loss during the crisis.
“It has been incredibly gratifying to see how IEA members have gone the extra mile for their students,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “Their professionalism in the face of adversity is truly inspiring.”
A cloud of uncertainty remains in place as education decision-makers in Idaho look to plot their course for the remainder of the current school year as well as the 2020-2021 school year. Student grading, educator evaluations, assessing where students stand academically, budgetary concerns, and how to ensure the safety of educators and students are just some of the issues that need to be addressed in the wake of being blindsided by the COVID-19 health crisis.
“Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones or been adversely affected by COVID-19,” says McInelly. “A global pandemic that closes schools and businesses is certainly an extraordinary challenge for all of us, but I am immensely proud of how educators have responded and confident they will continue to lead the way. We’re here for our students—regardless of the circumstances.”