Upper Valley Schools will start this fall with modifications due to COVID-19

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Upper Valley school districts plan to start school this fall with various modifications resulting from COVID-19.

In the Fremont School District, District Superintendent Byron Stutzman is proposing that school be delayed until Sept. 8. It was originally scheduled to start Aug. 26, he said.

“Since teachers are going to deliver both online and in person, we need to be well prepared for that,” he said.

Stutzman says he routinely follows Eastern Idaho Public Health updates. EIPH’s level of risk is divided into four categories: minimal, moderate, high and critical. As of Thursday, Fremont County had one new case and has a total of 14 active COVID-19 cases.

The school district is currently in the minimal risk zone. Should it increase, the district would require students to wear masks and to social distance, Stutzman said.

“We’ll take temperatures as kids get on the bus — this is regardless of what level we’re in,” he said. “Buses will be sanitized after every ride.”

Stutzman is asking parents to monitor their children’s health. He’s also asking Fremont families to avoid traveling outside the district unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Over the summer, school district workers deep cleaned buildings as they normally do. The difference this year is that they’ve added more sanitizing equipment, he said.

“We should be behaving this way any time there’s a flu season or another virus. We’ve got to do our due diligence, so it does not spread,” Stutzman said.

At the Sugar-Salem School District, School Superintendent Chester Bradshaw says Sugar-Salem’s first day of class will be Aug. 19.

“It’s coming right up,” he said. “We’re ready for some normal.”

Bradshaw believes that students learn better by being in class. Yet, he’s aware there are parents who want their children to learn online from home.

“We have an online program that we’ve been using for kids who’ve had to make up credits. Kids will be familiar with that especially the high school and Jr. high students,” he said. “Online is harder especially in our elementary school to pull off. It’s just way better if we can send those kids to school.”

Parents can expect the school to be well sanitized and precautions available to keep youth healthy.

“We have done a lot (of cleaning). I’ll have sanitizer available in every room. Touchless thermometers will be in the offices of every building if we need to check a child. We’re allowing kids to wear masks if they want to,” he said.

Plans also call to routinely sanitize doorknobs and places where youth congregate.

“Our drinking fountains will be turned off. They’ll have to bring water bottles,” Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw noted how few COVID-19 cases there have been in Sugar City and Madison County.

“We are lucky. Generally people are healthy here. It’s hardly affecting us, but it is affecting everything we do,” he said.

As of Thursday, EIPH reported three new coronavirus cases in Madison County. In all, there are 10 active cases reported.

Parents may rest assured the district has taken measures to protect students’ health, Bradshaw said.

“I hope parents would have faith in us to manage the situation the best we can. We’re excited to get back and get on with our lives,” he said.

In the Madison School District, plans call to start school on Aug. 26, said Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas in a press release.

“During the spring and summer, we have been working with Eastern Idaho Public Health, Governor Little’s office, Madison Memorial Hospital and regional, state health, (and) education authorities to prepare for a safe return to school,” he said.

Like Fremont and Sugar-Salem school districts Madison will provide online learning for families. All students will be automatically enrolled in online classes called “Schoology.” Students may also rely on what Thomas calls a “Hybrid Model” of classes.

“A student may choose to attend school or classes part time during the day and then work independently online,” he said.

The district also plans to waive attendance policies for the 2020-2021 school year, but students will be responsible to complete their assignments whether online or in class, Thomas said.

To protect both staff and students’ health, noninvasive thermometers will be provided at each school. The district is encouraging students to wear masks and especially so while in close proximity areas like hallways, buses, cafeterias and labs, he said.

Thomas reported that desks and computer equipment will be disinfected regularly. Buses will also be sanitized after each bus run. Should there be any reports of COVID-19 cases at any of the schools, parents will be told, and the building closed for two days of cleaning and disinfecting.

“Ultimately, the decision to send your child to school rests with you the parent or caregiver. We respect this parental right and seek to assist you in your educational decision making,” Thomas said. “Again, we are excited to begin the new school year. I hope this year will be a positive and safe one for all students, staff and parents.”