By Corey Evan

Independent-Enterprise

PAYETTE - With the Idaho State Board of Education extending the soft closure of Idaho’s public schools for the balance of the school year, the Payette School District has found itself in the same boat as other districts in scrambling to put together distance learning for students in the wake of novel coronavirus COVID-19. To help offset the added cost of deploying these means of educating their students, the district declared a state of emergency at its regular meeting on April 13. The meeting was conducted via the Zoom app, allowing the District to close the Galleon Room at Payette Alternative School to the public to comply with social distancing.

Superintendent Robin Gilbert pointed out that the declaration is optional, but recommended.

“Declaring a state of emergency just puts us in line for any of the expenses that we’re putting forth as work with the county and their state of emergency,” said Gilbert. “Not necessarily required, but they recommended it.”

At the same meeting, the Board established superintendent spending authority for Gilbert; The authority allows Gilbert to take executive action on needed items related to COVID-19.

“The spending authority … without having to ask for specific board approval, it allows [Gilbert] to make decisions for items that we need to have related to the COVID virus,” explained Board Clerk Barbara Choate.

She explained that expenses related to deploying distance learning could be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Payette School District was nudging its students to shoot for 95% attendance or better. After its arrival, parents began keeping students home from school. The worst days, according to the district, were March 16 and 17, where attendance hovered around 65%, according to Choate.

The District responded to this by requesting a waiver for Average Daily Attendance funding. 

Trustee Candita Strong moved to approve the emergency declaration, with Trustee Andy Kirkendall seconding the motion. The vote in favor was unanimous.

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