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January 26, 2021

RE: Response to the Concerns and Objections Expressed to the Superintendent of Public Instruction's
Proposed 2021 Legislation on the Preference for In-Person Classroom Instruction

Dear Superintendents of Region III:

I am in receipt of your email letter dated January 20th, regarding the legislation, which I have proposed to
clarify and codify a student's right and a district's responsibility to offer in-classroom instruction, except in
cases of and for the duration of any emergency condition that creates unsafe conditions for students or
staff. Attached for your further review, and hopefully your reconsideration and ultimate support of this
proposed law, is a slightly revised text of the bill as it is currently being proposed.

Your eight expressed objections to the proposal, as I understand them, are as follows:

1. It removes "decisions" from local control.

2. The concept of "emergency" is too broad.

3. It "ties the hands of quarantined teachers."

4. It "jeopardizes access" to existing remote learning courses.

5. It "robs choice" from students who prefer remote learning.

6. The reference to "monitoring and measuring" student progress is in conflict with current systems
for management and teacher feedback.

7. It mandates a "one size fits all" system of education in Idaho.

8. It represents a "sudden change in direction" by me.

Let me address each of those contentions in order and again ask each of you to more precisely review
the attached bill draft, to re-evaluate your respective positions and to support this proposed legislation
based upon the following clarifications:

1. "Decisions" Are Not Removed From Local Control

Far from impeding local decision making, this bill is only a statement of policy and procedure confirming
that the commitment of the Idaho Constitution, Article IX, Section 1 as to our "general, uniform and

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thorough system of public, free common schools" must be achieved in the best interest of and by the best
methods for our pupils, patrons and parents. The COVID crisis of 2020 demonstrated the need for a general
rule indicating that "in person instruction," where offered, should be the preferred educational alternative in
Idaho because:

 Studies and research have shown that most students suffer a significant loss of learning efficacy and
retention when classrooms are closed and teachers are not giving in-person instruction.

 The uncertainty as to whether, when, how, if, to what extent, and for how long to close classrooms in
favor of remote learning was a grave and divisive difficulty for local school boards and administrators
and produced a significant statewide inconsistency of school closure policies during 2020, which still
continues to some degree in 2021.

 Families and parents were negatively impacted, often with little or no notice, when classrooms were
closed.

 A uniform standard as to what was the preferred instruction alternative, but which also respected and
was subject to local emergency needs, was not developed.

This legislation is designed to meet those policy and procedure needs without making any specific decision
for any district in Idaho as to whether a class is offered, whether an emergency exists, whether an online
option should be created or eliminated or any other such detail. It merely describes a policy that allows
students and parents the option of in-person instruction if a district or charter school can develop requisite
safety protocols. While the policy is declared and a procedure is implied by the statute, all actual decision
making is reserved to the local level.

2. The Term "Emergency" Is Deliberately Not Defined To Allow Local Latitude In All Conditions

Far from being too broad the word "emergency" is just broad enough to fit any situation. Although the
worldwide, nationwide statewide COVID pandemic has necessitated this policy amendment, not all urgent
situations demanding a safety response will affect more than a single school building. This preference for in-
person learning is designed to be appropriate for a single principal to use for a lone building problem as well
as for district leadership or even the State Board of Education.

3. The Fate Of "Quarantined Teachers" Remains Under District Or Principal Control

As noted under the first point above, specific personnel decisions are not commanded by this law change.

The district or charter school or other supervisor may still elect any means it, he or she wishes to allow a
particular teacher to assume a specific portion of its educational mission. However, if that teacher
requires a substitute or co-teaching arrangement for in-classroom coverage, those decisions too can be
made by the local authority. This bill simply commits that the students’ needs will be foremost
considered.

4. The Creation Of New In-Person Classes Is Not Required

Subsection 2(j) qualifies the right of a student to a choice of in-person or on line education to situations only

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"if such courses are offered." Subsection (k) further explains that limitation during an emergency will apply
only to those classes where the school "has to change from in-person instruction" to another form of
educational delivery. Thus, existing virtual education programs such as those you cite are unaffected.
Likewise, there is no compulsion to create new in-person classes that did not exist before the emergency.

5. Remote Learning Is Not Removed From Student Access

As explained in Point 4. above, remote learning is neither expanded nor reduced by any implication of this
policy statement. Any such reallocation of personnel or resources made by a building supervisor, district
superintendent or local school board would be solely at their discretion.

6. The References To "Progress" In "Monitoring" And "Measurement" As Policy Goals Should Not Be
Threatening To Educators Or To Our Current Processes

Your letter does not explain why these terms or the phrasing of Subsection (20) is "especially concerning"
to you collectively or how it reflects "a lack of understanding" of current systems or feedback. This text is
conceived to be merely another general policy statement, which neither creates nor mandates specific
procedural changes. If you have foreseen a particular conflict or difficulty, I would be glad to receive and
consider that information. Meanwhile, you may be assured that I believe the legislature, should they adopt
this language, WOULD merely wish to reference our current emphasis on quality control in the educational
process in this collection of general policy standards.

7. and 8. Neither A "One Size Mandate" Nor A Change Of Direction" Is Indicated Here

As noted above, the districts and charter schools, large and small, and every decision-making subset
thereof, retain their current full range of specific authority. Likewise, I remain committed to my local
government philosophy as expressed last fall. This is policy, not usurpation.

In conclusion, I certainly would wish to have your support, individually and collectively, for this important
legislation. We must focus, improve and prioritize the policy and procedures by which we are prepared to
protect in-person instruction in future emergency situations. This bill is an attempt to state that standard and
give that direction at the statutory level, while preserving all day-to-day assessments and relevant decisions
for you as district superintendents. Please carefully review and reconsider working with me to strongly
endorse this vital legislation.

Sincerely,

Sherri Ybarra, Ed.S.


Superintendent of Public Instruction

encl: RE DR ELB219 January 26, 2021 Draft

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