PAYETTE COUNTY - Even as Idaho Gov. Brad Little recommended curtailing public meetings across the state in his emergency declaration on novel coronavirus COVID-19, he stopped short of mandating school closures. Ahead of Gov. Little’s declaration, the Idaho State Board of Education had already scheduled a special meeting by telephone for Friday, Mar. 13 to discuss the situation with higher education institutions.

During that phone call, Department of Health and Welfare Director of Data and Analytics Dave Judson recommended to the Board of Education keeping K-12 institutions open for the time being, due to the pressure upon the workforce that would be involved in closing schools. Judson nonetheless recommended minimizing public gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID. He also noted that closing higher education institutions would not cause pressure. He added that closing schools could also accelerate spread of the virus.

The Board recognized the fact that Idaho is a local control state, where individual K-12 school districts have jurisdiction to make the call whether or not to shut down for themselves. Concerns were also raised about continuing foodservice to students during any shutdown which may occur. Ideas proposed included dropping off meal kits for students, ensuring that life goes on.

College presidents participating in the call said they were working on not only moving all instruction to online means and implementing social distancing short of requiring or asking any students to leave campus or closing residence and dining halls, but also to take an extended spring break and cancel revenue events on campus. Their goal was to ensure students received complete instruction. Commencement ceremony plans remained undecided.

Regarding students who work on campus, college leaders said they would work toward honoring those students’ employment and assure they maintain cash flow. They further asked the Board for assistance in implementing measures taken.

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