UPDATE, 4:50 p.m.: Even with schools closed this week, students will be able to continue their education.
Teton County School No. 1 sent an update to parents at 4 p.m. Sunday outlining how distance education will work this week. Principals from each school will contact parents Monday to communicate details about remote learning and any materials students will need for the week.
District staff will work on-site Monday and Tuesday while practicing social distancing, the update says. The district has set up times for parents to come to the schools to retrieve anything students left in their cubbies or to pick up learning materials.
Those times are 3 to 5 p.m. Monday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday. Links at TCSD.org will include some learning materials and activities for each grade level.
"It's going to take creativity on part of teachers and parents and students," information coordinator Charlotte Reynolds said.
Middle and high school students are already used to doing homework on their devices through the online platform Canvas, so much of that will remain the same. Each of those students already has a device. Teachers will also be able to set up virtual interaction between themselves and students when needed.
Elementary school students are generally less reliant on electronic devices for their studies, so any family that doesn't have access to a device will be able to check one out from the school for the week. Those can be picked up during the times listed above.
Teachers will hold virtual office hours from 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and from 8 to 11 a.m. Wednesday and Friday. Principals from each school will tell parents how to reach teachers during office hours.
These measures will remain in place until the scheduled spring break, which will last until April 5. District administrators will reevaluate whether to open schools as the end of spring break gets closer.
"We'll be looking at the same things we have been monitoring to date," Reynolds said. "We'll be asking the experts to help guide us in when it's appropriate to return to school."
ORIGINAL STORY, 12:30 p.m.: Students in Teton County School District No. 1 will not attend school this week. Amid pressures to help "flatten the curve" and slow the spread of COVID-19, school officials are cancelling the week prior to the two-week spring break, meaning schools will be closed for at least three weeks, until April 5 or later.
"After last night’s announcement of the positive COVID-19 case in Teton County, Idaho," Superintendent Gillian Chapman said in a release, "I have been carefully reviewing the CDC guidance for schools that suggests schools not close until there is a case in their buildings. I have also considered all of the other efforts being taken in our community to “flatten the curve” and have decided to close all TCSD #1 schools starting tomorrow, Monday, March 16th. Schools will remain closed until at least April 5th. Decisions about post-spring break closures will depend on how this situation unfolds in the coming weeks and will be communicated to families as soon as we have the necessary information to make those decisions."
"This unprecedented situation has created significant anxiety, stress, and confusion for us all," Chapman said. "We have been working closely with our local public health experts to understand the facts and I greatly appreciate their guidance and support."
School trustees, Teton County Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell and Teton County Public Health's Jodie Pond all consulted with the district as they pondered taking this action.
"Plans for cloud, or distance classroom learning and other services will be finalized tomorrow and shared with families and posted on the TCSD #1 website. Distance education and other services such as meals for students in need will be offered during the unscheduled closure, not during spring break," the release continued.
All teachers and other support staff will report to work Monday "to finalize plans to support learning and services for students during this closure."
Board of Education Chair, Betsy Carlin, added “It is our opinion that being proactive rather than reactive at a time like this is the best way we can support our community. Even if it saves one life, it will be worth it. I want to thank Superintendent Chapman and her team for the hours they have put into monitoring the situation and making this difficult decision. I hope that everyone stays safe and healthy in the coming weeks.”
Dr. Riddell said he supports the decision.
“In this unprecedented situation, I fully support TCSD #1’s steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
Chapman said families and students with anxiety about the virus can visit this National Association of School Psychologists page for guidance.
This is a developing story.
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