PAYETTE COUNTY - Tuesday was the last day of school for the month of March for all Payette County students. 

On Monday afternoon, Fruitland School District superintendent Teresa Fabricius announced that the schools will be closing starting on Wednesday. Later that night, Payette School District issued a similar memo, saying that Tuesday will be the last day of school before spring break. 

This closure, both districts claim, is based on new recommendations from the White House on Monday, as well as “current and evolving information from the health care community,” Fabricius wrote.

Treasure Valley Classical Academy also announced on Monday night that school will be closed starting Tuesday. 

On Tuesday morning, New Plymouth School District Superintendent David Sotutu released a statement saying that Tuesday will also be the last day of school for New Plymouth School District until March 30.

“Please remember that this is not a time to be alarmed,” Sotutu wrote. “There are still only 5 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our state and none of those were due to community spread. In other words, none of those people contracted the virus from someone in Idaho.”

With students at schools across Payette and Washington Counties being sent home in light of the latest COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) developments, the Payette School District is not only gearing up to keep its students fed, but also to keep those of Fruitland schools fed.

Via telephone on March 17, Superintendent Robin Gilbert said the District has submitted an application to the State Department to do an extension of the summer meals program to help cover students’ needs during the closures. 

A message from Gilbert to the parents of Payette School District said that grab and go meals will be made available at pick-up sites throughout the district and that should begin as early as Wednesday. The specifics of this plan, the time and place, were not available by press time. 

Gilbert said the District is offering meals to Fruitland students, because the Fruitland School District told her their program would not be ready to fill the need until after their scheduled spring break.

Gilbert said she remains in contact with superintendents of Weiser, New Plymouth and Fruitland, as the leaders work to prepare their schools for reopening once the COVID situation improves. Gilbert called this “a joint effort.”

Meals are available to students ages 18 and under.

While in-person parent conferences in the district are cancelled, Gilbert said Payette Primary School has made parent conferences available by telephone.

The District office will remain open during the school closures, and teachers will report to work today and Thursday to prepare for reopening of schools. Gilbert said locations and hours for meal pick-ups are to be determined but could start as early as Wednesday.

The closures come on the same day that the Idaho High School Activities Association suspended all spring sports (events and practices) through April 5.

All Oregon schools started a weeks-long closure starting on Monday, which was mandated by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday. On Sunday night, Idaho Gov. Brad Little said he would leave closing the schools up to the individual school districts.

Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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