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Region III School Superintendents’ Association

January 20, 2021

We the undersigned superintendents of school districts in Region III were provided a draft of
your legislation addressing access to in person learning. Not having been consulted prior to its
creation, we offer this input.

We appreciate the safety protocols in place during the pandemic, which have prevented you
from visiting our schools in-person to understand how in-person learning is taking place in our
buildings. As always, we again extend an invitation to you for an in-person visit.

First, we share your belief that students benefit academically, emotionally, and socially when
they are able to receive in-person instruction with their teacher in their classroom. The
classroom is the best environment for students and we assure you that in-person learning is
happening in our buildings. Without prior consultation, we are puzzled about why you are
bringing this forward.

This proposal usurps the control of locally elected school boards to respond nimbly to
emergencies, ties the hands of our hardworking educators, and limits options for our students.

We’ve identified the following flaws with the legislation:

• As you wrote this fall, “... each local district and charter school must make its own
decisions, in concert with local health authorities, to establish the rules that best keep
our children, educators, staff and families safe. ….As Superintendent of Public
Instruction, I can’t (and shouldn’t) tell districts what to decide.” You were correct in
October: the responsibility for the safety of students rests by law with local schools
boards. Idahoans hold to a strong belief that the best decisions are made locally by
board’s elected by our patrons.
• “Emergency” as included in the proposal is too broad. Most emergencies involve a
condition that disrupts education, creating an environment where staff and students are
unable to physically be present in a school building. This includes such emergencies as
a snow day, fire, flood, gas leak,etc. This also impacts a need for a short-term closure
should a school shooting or other traumatic event occur on a campus. Forcing an in-
person choice in these scenarios is not an appropriate action (or safe) and should not be
dictated by the state.
• The legislation ties the hands of teachers quarantined at home, to protect others, but
who still serve their students remotely while students are supervised in-person by a
trained caring adult.
• The in-person requirement would jeopardize access for students -- especially those in
rural communities -- to IDLA courses and Advanced Opportunities courses that may only
be available in a distance learning environment because the district cannot afford an in-
person teacher.
The mission of Region III ISSA is to bring superintendents and partners together to collaborate, network,
problem solve, advocate and grow professionally as leaders of learning in Idaho.
President Vice-President Secretary Treasurer
Rob Sauer Paula Kellerer N. Shalene French Craig Woods
Homedale School District Nampa School District Caldwell School District Emmett School
District
• A requirement for in-person learning robs choice from our students who choose to learn
remotely for a variety of reasons: social emotional needs, health reasons, traveling with
family for military service, migrant work etc.
• The addition of item k “student progress is monitored and measured in all required
courses of instruction.” This is especially concerning and seems to reflect a lack of
understanding of learning management systems and the feedback teachers are
providing parents and teachers.

We are excited that a positive outcome from this pandemic is that our educators and students
have harnessed technology in a new and exciting way to support personalizing learning. Your
proposal may have an unintended consequence by dictating a one-size fits all approach.

We understand the frustrations felt by many when schools closed to in-person learning last
spring as our communities, state, and nation responded to this new health threat.

We appreciated last spring, the praise and support you offered as Districts, Idaho Digital
Learning Alliance, and Charter Schools navigated these uncharted waters:

“I am tremendously impressed and encouraged by the skill, creativity, collaboration and


commitment of school administrators, teachers and support staff as we strive to make
this strange temporary reality as workable and “normal” as possible.”

Without a conversation or dialogue, it is not clear what is driving the sudden change in direction
proposed by you.

We do not support this proposal and ask that you not introduce it. Please return to the position
you shared statewide just a few months ago:

“Issues are not going to be resolved quickly and neatly in all situations, but our saving
grace will be our shared commitment to Idaho children, their learning and their
futures. We must remember that positive student outcomes depend on committed,
caring parents, teachers, administrators and school boards.”

As we progress forward toward “normal”, we are uplifted by the state’s commitment to the
earlier-than-expected roll out of the COVID vaccines for our staff. Hopefully, vaccines mean we
will be able to limit the need to quarantine staff, which will reduce operational shortages.

As you identify strategies to support schools and students to succeed during this unprecedented
time, rather than this legislation, we make this request: Please reopen your office for full service
and call your staff back to in-person work. We need to be able to make contact with SDE
employees and staffers to support us in our work to prepare Idaho’s children to be responsible
citizens of their homes, schools and communities. We’ve always appreciated when we get a
quick response to our calls and emails.

Sincerely,

Region III School Superintendents’ Association

The mission of Region III ISSA is to bring superintendents and partners together to collaborate, network,
problem solve, advocate and grow professionally as leaders of learning in Idaho.
President Vice-President Secretary Treasurer
Rob Sauer Paula Kellerer N. Shalene French Craig Woods
Homedale School District Nampa School District Caldwell School District Emmett School
District