As members of the Idaho Education Association’s Board of Directors, we are deeply concerned about the potential catastrophes resulting from the spread of COVID-19. Our healthcare system, the lives of Idahoans, and the safety of our students, families, and educators are all jeopardized by this unprecedented threat.
It is urgent that we act on the COVID-19 pandemic, and Idaho schools are uniquely positioned to help the broader community stave off a massive health crisis. We call on all education leaders to set an example for our state, create plans, and act decisively. We must do all we can to “flatten the curve.” Preventing the spread of the disease will help ensure our healthcare system can provide essential medical care to those in need. Without flattening the curve – slowing the spread of the disease – our healthcare system will become overburdened and we will be forced to triage vital care that will decide life or death for Idaho residents.
Below are the IEA’s recommendations to school administrators, local school districts, and our local affiliates and members. The recommendation to close schools was not easily made. Our schools, students, and families are under-resourced. As a result, any change to the school day and operations will have an adverse impact on the lives of students, families, and our members. Idaho schools provide nourishment, social and emotional support, and, of course, academic instruction.
IEA Recommendations for Schools
In the best interests of our communities and to slow the spread of COVID-19, we recommend that the following steps for school closures:
- Pay all public school employees in full during this time of crisis. Not just teachers, but counselors, librarians, bus drivers, custodial workers, and other support staff who are essential to our school system running smoothly and our students learning and growing. We should hold harmless all public school employees from these unfortunate and unforeseeable circumstances.
- Identify students with high needs for ongoing care and provide or coordinate services to meet these needs. This includes, but is not limited to, food and nutritional support. Since public schools all too often provide the only meals some students receive, we must provide and distribute meals to students with these needs. IEA is ready to assist in these efforts.
- Coordinate with community partners and utilize education support professional staff to assist in meeting the needs of students.
- Pursue additional online learning options. Digital instruction will not replace the positive impact of a quality classroom teacher. However, it can help keep students engaged and prevent learning drop-offs. Ensuring that all students have consistent access to technology and online resources is essential.
- Take advantage of opportunities to tackle projects such as building maintenance, cleaning, and reorganization if a school can maintain social distancing and other precautions. We encourage schools and districts to think creatively and work collaboratively with staff regarding the use of time during school closures.
We encourage students, public school employees, and district leaders to follow these protocols when school is in session:
- Students should stay home if they or a member of their household is sick.
- Remove barriers that might prevent students from staying home, including attendance policies and awards for attendance.
- Allow staff to stay home if they, or a member of their immediate family, is sick or a staff member has a compromised immune system.
- Remove impediments that might prevent public school employees from taking sick time. This includes a lack of sick days for individual employees. Staff should be fully compensated while they are out sick or caring for a family member regardless of accrued sick time.
- Ensure a safe and healthy school environment by:
- Promote good hygiene practices.
- Provide sanitation stations and materials for all classrooms.
- Ensure that soap and/or hand sanitizer is available in all bathrooms.
- Suspend all out-of-district travel for staff and students.
- Change all parent-teacher conferences to telephonic or online platforms.
- Educate parents on precautionary measures and encourage them to keep students home if they or other household members are sick.
We call on Idaho’s public school leadership to assist in containing the spread of COVID-19 and protect our communities, students and staff. Since the COVID-19 crisis is constantly evolving, we will likely recommend additional steps be taken in the future as well as additional IEA resources.
Layne McInelly IEA President Matt Aber-Town Executive Director
Stephanie Myers IEA Vice President Peggy Hoy NEA Director
Adam Mapp IEA Member at Large Pamela Fleischman Resolutions Chair
Rick Jones – Coeur d’Alene Stacie Aspiazu ESP at Larg
Dick Chilcote – Boise Rebecca O’Daniel Aspiring Educator
Mary Lee Ruch – Coeur d’Alene Char McKinney – Grangeville
Jake Smulkowski – Post Falls Deanna Didier – Lewiston
Joel Williams – Fruitland Wendy Smith – Wendell
Erin Murillo – Fruitland Tryntje Van Slyke – Hailey
Mary Anne McGrory – Pocatello Lisie Smith – Driggs
Jon Hawkes – Snake River Angela Gillman – Idaho Falls
Cindy Schaffeld – Boise Dave Lyman – Wilder
Erin Stutzman – Boise Erin Paradis – Caldwell
Amber Armstrong – Boise Greg Felton – Meridian
Nick Stienmetz – Boise Angie Hickman – Meridian