Upper Valley Schools will be open on Monday

(Courtesy photo)

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Despite the Idaho Education Association recommending that schools close during the next three weeks, Madison, Fremont and Sugar-Salem School Districts plan to open on Monday.

In Madison County, Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas says he and Madison School Board members agreed to hold school.

“While formulating our decision, we have spoken with various local and state government and health agencies, all the way to the Governor’s office. In addition, we have closely followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control or CDC,” he said.

To keep schools open, the CDC and the state epidemiologists are urging parents and school officials to teach proper hygiene to students, Thomas said.

Proper hygiene includes the following: frequent hand washing, liberal use of hand sanitizer, sneezing into a Kleenex and tossing it into the trash immediately, coughing into sleeves, staying at least six feet away from anyone who is ill and staying home if sick.

“Regardless, the district will definitely close our schools if and when state or local health authorities suggest we do so, and when closing will be the best or most effective method for slowing the virus,” Thomas said.

He reminded parents that it was ultimately up to them to decide whether to send their child to school. Students wouldn’t be punished for staying home, Thomas said.

The school district is considering hold extracurricular activities.

“We are discussing how best to address future large attendance activities such as springtime concerts/events etc.” he said.

Thomas assured parents that the school district will monitor the situation and keep parents informed.

“I recognize that there is and will be a level of uncertainty as we address this fluid situation. As we have always done in Madison 321, we will face this challenge with calm and professionalism, helping and supporting one another. The safety of our students, staff and community is our highest priority,” he said.

In the Sugar-Salem School District Superintendent Chester Bradshaw says the district will do everything possible to keep children safe and healthy.

“We are monitoring our local and state situation very closely. We are prepared to take drastic measures if need be, but until those measures become necessary, our very best option is to keep our schools open and as sanitary as humanly possible,” he said.

It wasn’t known if the school district planned to continue with extracurricular activities.

“We now have a handful of confirmed COVID-19 cases throughout our state. We have no confirmed cases in our schools and community. Our guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is that there is no evidence that a school closure will have any measurable effect on our current situation,” he said.

Citing CDC guidelines, Chester noted that the COVID-19 virus is spread mainly from person-to-person standing within six feet of each other. It’s transferred through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of those standing nearby.

In Fremont County, Superintendent Byron Stutzman also stated that government and health officials had advised him to keep schools open.

“Agencies at every level of government urged us to continue school next week. We are continuing school tomorrow. The decision to hold school will be a day-to-day process as we continue to consult with our health and government agencies,” he said.

Stutzman said that school officials will work to prevent the spread of the infection during the upcoming months.

“At the heart of our decision-making process, was thinking about what is best for our students, our families, and the community as a whole. The decision meant thinking about all of the students we serve, from those who depend on the various services schools offer to students who profit from their academic success,” he said.

Stutzman said that school officials would meet on Monday to discus steps to be taken next.

While speaking with the Central District Health office, Stutzman discussed the case of a Driggs person testing positive for the illness. The health office assured Stutzman that the individual hadn’t come in contact with anyone from the Fremont School District.

Stutzman said that health authorities state that “social distancing” is meant for non-essential functions. Those non-essential functions involve sporting events and concerts. It’s not clear if Fremont School District plans to hold such activities.

“However, essential functions such as workplaces, grocery stores, other retail outlets, schools, and government are functions that should continue based on information provided by the State’s public health officials,” he said.

Stutzman assured parents that the school district is utilizing scientific data to make decisions.

“All segments of the state’s public health system urged FCSD #215 to continue with school next week.”

Stutzman stressed that students who don’t feel well should stay home until they are completely recovered from sickness.

“Please keep your child/children at home if they exhibit any signs of sickness, or have a compromised health issue,” he said.

As more information is made available, the Standard Journal will update this story.