On July 9, the state of Idaho released our Back-to-School Framework as schools began to make plans to reopen for the 2020-21 school year. The Framework outlines the expectations, support for local governance and decision-making, as well as guidance and best practices on the key operational components for a safe reopening. As Gov. Brad Little stated, local leadership is paramount.
Additionally, on July 24, Gov. Little announced that the Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee had approved an additional $40 million to increase testing capacity and improve test turn-around times in Idaho, with $21 million of the testing money specifically for K-12 teachers and staff. An additional $10 million was approved to equip schools with supplies needed to open safely.
Idaho has strategically leveraged federal funds to offset planned reductions. Between direct federal support for schools and the Governor’s actions through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a total of $122.2 million has been committed to K-12 public education for the upcoming school year.
Ultimately, we want to keep our teachers, staff, and students as safe as possible from the spread of COVID-19. Depending on what is happening locally, each district will make the decision that is best for them. For example, in Ada County, face masks or cloth face coverings will be required at all schools and universities. Central District Health is doing the safe and responsible thing as Ada County has seen significant spread of COVID-19.
What can we do to support our school staff, students and teachers?
Whether we have students in the schools or a relative who works in a school, what can all of us do to slow the spread of COVID-19? Gov. Little has already made a commitment to support the schools’ needs when it comes to testing and supplies. What we can do is much simpler.
Practice physical distancing. When children are playing or gathering outside their own homes, it is essential to keep six feet between your children and others who are not in their household.
Face masks or cloth face coverings: The science-based evidence from many different sources is clear – face coverings are protective. When you wear a mask, you protect others. When others wear a mask, they protect you. If you are looking for research to support face masks or cloth face coverings, you can find it through our previous blog post that includes a list of articles, studies, and reports that have slight variations on the same theme — #MaskUpIdaho.
Wearing a mask or cloth face covering helps our schools stay open and helps protect our teachers and students. Schools cannot stay open if the teachers and students are sick. We want our children to get the education and socialization they need and deserve. It is up to all of us to support them, and it is up to us to keep schools open.
Wash your hands: Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water (or use hand sanitizer) before eating or touching your face covering or mask (especially if you have been to a store or outside your home … wash your hands as soon as you return home).
Additionally, be sure to cover your coughs and sneezes and disinfect surfaces and objects regularly.
I want to thank everyone who is spreading the #MaskUpIdaho message by sharing it on social media or wearing a face covering in public. It’s going to take all of us to slow the spread of COVID-19. I am thankful to all the Idahoans doing their part.
Stay safe and stay healthy this weekend. #MaskUpIdaho
2 thoughts on “Supporting our teachers, staff, and students as schools reopen: A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen”
What exactly are the metrics for safe reopening? A positivity rate of 5% or less? Are the testing metrics in Idaho accurate? How many infections and deaths are tolerable?
A USDA covid relief program which provides money for school lunch families has been ignored by Idaho. The only state in the US to do so. Is that how you support students?
School openings and closures are decisions made by the local school boards in conjunction with the local public health districts. The Idaho Back-To-School Framework is available here: https://www.sde.idaho.gov/re-opening/files/Idaho-Back-to-School-Framework-2020.pdf
DHW and the Department of Education are moving quickly to get PEBT payments to eligible families as soon as possible, but some work needed to be done to make that happen. The Department of Health and Welfare does not administer the school lunch program. In order for Idaho to implement the PEBT program, DHW and the Department of Education had to work out data share agreements to ensure data could be shared between agencies. Since each individual school district owns that data for those families eligible for the school lunch program, we had to work together to ensure we were able to get all of the information from local public school districts to DHW to implement the program.