Upper Valley school districts to start classes in August

(ISDE Courtesy photo)

Lance Hansen, assistant superintendent of the Lewiston School District, pumps hand sanitizer into containers for schools in Region 2 last week.

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Thanks to the Idaho State Department of Education, Upper Valley Schools will have extra hand sanitizer and masks available for the upcoming school year.

ISDE delivered seven 330-gallon drums of hand sanitizer and 100,000 masks to all six of Idaho’s districts last week.

“School safety has always been a huge part of our mission, but it has taken on additional meaning during this pandemic,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said.

Sugar-Salem School District Superintendent Chester Bradshaw reported receiving 15 gallons of hand sanitizer.

“We’ll be able to use it. We still have some, but we are struggling. It’s a thing that’s on back order. We’ll have enough to get us up and rolling and adding to our supply,” he said.

Plans call to start school as normally as possible on Aug. 19. Hand sanitizer will be placed in every room and on every bus. High traffic areas such as drinking fountains, bathrooms and doorknobs will be cleaned throughout the day. The district isn’t requiring students to wear masks, but they can if they’d like to, Bradshaw said.

The district has also purchased touchless thermometers that are easy to use, he said.

“You can put the thermometer an inch away from the forehead and take their temperature,” he said.

Bradshaw says that district patrons are anxious for their children to return to school.

“They’re not interested in anything other than going back to normal. That’s what we’re interested in doing too. Face-to-face teaching is the most effective way to educate kids that we know about,” he said.

Extra curricular activities are also expected to resume, Bradshaw said.

“We’ve had such little exposure with COVID-19 and such a small caseload in eastern Idaho, that we’re optimistic we will continue as normal,” he said.

In the Fremont County School District Superintendent Byron Stutzman also reported receiving sanitizer from the state.

“We ended up with 20 gallons of it. It gives us a start,” he said.

Fremont County schools start on Aug. 26.

“We’re also gearing up, so that we have all the supplies we need to sanitize and disinfect and do everything we can in order for us to keep the environment as healthy as we can,” he said.

Plans call to continue cleaning buses every day as well as halls and offices. The district is adding an extra level of sanitation for its buildings by placing cleaning equipment called an Electrostatic disinfecting in each building.

Stutzman doesn’t know if the district will require students and staff to wear masks.

“That’s something we’re leaving open," he said.

Stutzman doesn’t know if extracurricular activities will take place this year.

“I’m not sure about plays or concerts. That’s getting people inside. We may go without spectators for our activities, and we can do that. We’re set up at our high school football field and gyms, so that people can watch those (via camera),” he said.

District athletic directors are working with state athletic officials about holding football games.

“They’re talking to them about how we can do those, so we won’t lose all of our gate (money). Football does have a tendency to help all the other sports. We’ll still be able to put people in the stand, just socially distanced,” he said.

Stutzman is anxious for school to restart.

“I just wish this COVID-19 would go away. I wish we’d find a vaccine and get over this and move forward,” he said.

In the Madison County School District, Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas was also thankful for the state providing the extra hand disinfectant.

“On behalf of Madison 321, I would like to express my gratitude to Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, and the Idaho State Department of Education for assisting our school district with the generous donation of hand sanitizer and face masks. This timely donation will augment our current supplies, and help prepare us for the upcoming school year,” he said.

School starts in Madison County on Aug. 26, Thomas said.

“After deliberation with Eastern Idaho Public Health, our COVID-19 Task Force and the Madison 321 Board of Trustees, we are planning this fall for a full return to face-to-face classroom instruction. This includes a return to extracurricular activities in the fall,” he said.

Thomas assured parents that great lengths have been taken to safeguard students from COVID-19. Such sanitation efforts include cleaning high traffic surfaces like doorknobs and drinking fountains several times a day. Buses will be sanitized on a daily basis as well.

“We will be practicing and encouraging social distancing where feasible and are asking our students to space themselves apart while standing in registration and lunch lines or while waiting for the drinking fountain,” Thomas said.

Hand sanitizer will be provided in each classroom, and the school district will provide face masks if requested, he said.

“We will be frequently teaching and demonstrating proper hygiene techniques to students,” he said.

Ybarra said she was happy to help school districts fight COVID-19.

“I am thrilled that we can distribute hand sanitizer and face masks to districts and schools throughout the state to make our schools safer, healthier spaces,” she said.