Community Opinion on the Decision to Return To Full-Time In-Person Schooling

The+Boise+School+District%27s+decision+to+fully+reopen+schools%2C+in+accordance+with+COVID-19+safety+measures%2C+has+been+met+with+backlash+and+support.+

Photo Credit: Boise School District

The Boise School District’s decision to fully reopen schools, in accordance with COVID-19 safety measures, has been met with backlash and support.

Sydney Wold, Reporter

Since the week before Spring Break of 2020, we’ve all wanted to know when our days would return to normal and almost a year later, we’ve gotten an answer. On March 29th, 2021, all K-12 institutions in the Boise School District (BSD) will return to full time in-person instruction. This unanimous decision marks an important milestone in Boise’s return to normalcy, one that has been met with both praise and criticism. 

The decision was made during a board meeting, in which four different options were examined. The BSD decided on Option 2, which entails the return of K-6 students and K-12 special education students on March 9th, when the majority of staff has been vaccinated, and all students on March 29th. A guidance letter from St Luke’s, St. Al’s, and the Central District Health recommended that the BSD, “continue in a hybrid model until we know more about the new, more infectious COVID variants,” however, they acknowledged that there was a high interest in returning to a full-time, in-person schedule and asked the BSD to keep enforcing masks, cleanliness, physical distancing when possible, and strict quarantining. 

Supporters of the decision cite at-home learning difficulties, the uptick in local teacher vaccinations, and a lower likelihood of lethal symptoms among elementary-aged students. Some passionate parents and students staged a rally outside the BSD main office voicing their concerns about the hybrid model. Signs included slogans such as, “Remote learning is hard when you have the computer skills of a first grader,” “Mental health matters,” and “No politics, know science.” 

Critics of the decision cite a lack of vaccinations for students, at-risk family members, and the challenge of social distancing. Though the BSD has stated they will implement, “physical distancing to the extent possible,” there has been no guarantee that classrooms will be adequately distanced. As for student vaccinations and at-risk family members, no recommendations or statements have been made. CDC data demonstrates a low case rate among the 5-17 year old demographic (9.5% of 21,060,155 cases), however this rate isn’t stagnant.

Many students and teachers within the BSD have mixed emotions about the situation. Survey results published by the BSD reveal that 50.3% of students, 33.5% of staff, and 48.2% of parents in 7-12 schools voted in favor of a full-time in-person schedule, while 49.7% of students, 24.6% of parents, and 35.8% of staff voted against. It should be noted that a percentage of these votes (27.2% of parents and 30.7% of staff) were counted as non-applicable because they did not have or teach 7-12 students. 

Some students seem to hold strong opinions about returning to school. A student group, Students Vs. Infection (SVI), created an Instagram account mere hours after the BSD’s consensus. In an interview conducted over Instagram direct messages, SVI shared that they themselves are negatively affected by this decision and they “formed this account to share the voices and opinions of students/families whose lives are being put at risk… this account is an attempt to directly address the BSD on their lack of morality, integrity, and open ears for science.”

When asked about what they specifically hope to accomplish, they answered that at the very least, they hoped to convince the BSD to dismiss Option 2 and move to Option 4, which places students 7-12 in a fully hybrid schedule for the remainder of the year. SVI plans on accomplishing this goal with the support of students and families and adds that, “We have phone numbers, emails, email templates, and more information… with more to be posted soon.” SVI also has links to a petition against the decision in their Instagram bio. 

For their message to readers, SVI encourages others to “stand up for what’s right! Your voice matters and  if you think something is wrong… it’s your responsibility to do something about it…. SVI plans to work against measures created by the BSD, so with all stated, please keep up with us as well.” SVI also asks that COVID-19 safety measures, such as double-masking, sanitizing, distancing, and staying up to date with COVID-19 news, be considered and adopted by individuals. 

As of March 1st, the district has made no comment on student discourse, however they have made it clear they will continue to enforce health official recommended measures to keep students safe.