Jefferson Joint School District 251 is the newest district to switch to four days a week of in-person lessons because of the coronavirus.
The district’s board of trustees voted Tuesday night to set aside Mondays as a day for students to learn remotely from home, while teachers take the day to prepare for the week’s classes and hold limited office hours. The change will be in place beginning Sept. 28.
Superintendent Chad Martin said he had heard from teachers in the district about the extra work they were being asked to do, as well as from teachers in districts that had adopted the four-day-a-week model about the benefits. Both Bonneville and Idaho Falls school districts started the school year with one day a week dedicated to remote classes and teacher improvement.
“We have found that because families are following protocols for symptoms that are in place, we have a lot more students who are absent and that puts an increased workload on our teachers to provide lessons at school and remotely,” Martin said.
The district plans to survey parents over the next few days to see if there is a strong preference between having that remote day on Mondays or Fridays.
Jefferson’s board of trustees also voted to loosen the quarantine restrictions currently in place. Students who were in close contact with a confirmed case of the virus but were wearing a face mask at the time will get a choice: isolate at home for 14 days or attend school with a stricter mask requirement, daily temperature checks and a close monitoring of possible symptoms.
Martin said the board had considered adding that option after three positive tests reported at one of their high schools led to more than 100 students having to isolate at home for two weeks.
“On the safety end that was probably the best thing to do, but we need to weigh that against the educational end. We need to look at their social and academic health,” Martin said.
District 251 does not have a mask requirement in its school reopening plan but is following the mandate from Eastern Idaho Public Health that covers Jefferson County, so nearly all students could be eligible to choose between isolating and returning to school with the extra precautions. The option would not apply to students who were exposed from a family member or other people in their home.
Martin said that the district has seen nine students and nine employees test positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday.