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Twin Falls school board receives mixed views about switch to hybrid learning schedule

School board is concerned about rising positive COVID-19 cases in the district
Parents express frustration with the school board's decision to switch from a yellow to an orange learning schedule.
Parents express frustration with the school board's decision to switch from a yellow to an orange learning schedule.(SK)
Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 9:51 AM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) -Last week the Twin Falls School District’s board of trustees notified parents, students, and staff of its decision to move from a yellow to the orange schedule of learning starting Wednesday, October 14. The move to orange means students will be transitioning to a hybrid learning schedule of both online and in-person classes, instead of the traditional five days a week in-person learning under the yellow protocol.

Orange Hybrid Learning Schedule TFSD
Orange Hybrid Learning Schedule TFSD(SK)

In a letter the district said:

“According to the SCPHD, over the past two weeks, the COVID-19 case average in Twin Falls is now the highest it has been since the start of the pandemic as we have had more cases than all of March and April. In our schools, we have experienced 25 positive tests (students and staff) in this same two-week period and have others out with symptoms, in quarantine, and/or awaiting test results. In addition, the hospital is struggling due to the number of hospitalized patients and a lack of staff members available due to sickness”

According to the TFSD website, a cumulative total of 61 students and 20 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 this school year, affecting more than 14 schools at one time or another.

However, Monday night’s school board meeting in Roper Auditorium at Twin Falls High School, many parents and students expressed their frustration with the trustee’s decision.

Signs reading “Stop the Fear Mongering” and “You Don’t Have the Right to Take Away My Child’s Education” filled the auditorium.

During the unscheduled delegation, audience members had the opportunity to address the school board, and two people took advantage of the opportunity to speak to the board about its decision to move from yellow to orange, and both had differing opinions.

Shane Klaas, the host of “Shane Talks Politics”, spoke on behalf of a group of parents and students who were frustrated about the move from yellow to orange.

Klaas who was very passionate as he spoke to the board said, “So you can keep this ruse on and keep shutting things down partially and keep doing this to everybody,” he said. “But you need to understand that parents have had enough, and they are sick and tired of it”.

Klaas also expressed extreme frustration that he had sent a list of questions to the school board and local leaders in the community on the behalf of parents, and students that they wanted answers to, and they received no reply back. He admonished the board in front of an audience filled with teachers, students, and parents.

"I sent it to the superintendent. I sent it to every one of the trustees individually. I sent it to the people that are supposed to be our leaders in this community, " Klaas said. “Everyone of our city council members, our mayor, our vice mayor, and not a single one of you had the courtesy to give me an answer to any one of those questions”.

He continued to say how are “We the people” supposed to have a voice and say in what is happening in our kids' education if you don’t have the courtesy to even reply to an email.

“It’s disgusting,” Klaas said.

Like one of the signs that read in the audience, Klaas accused the board of “fear-mongering” when he stated that it is very rare that a student is giving another student COVID-19. He said most of the time it comes from adults and at their homes. Not in school.

“How many students have gotten COVID-19 from a student? That is a number I think the public would like to know,” Klaas said as he received cheers from some students and parents in the audience.

As Klaas finished and took a seat in the audience, Dustin Henkelmann, a teacher at Canyon Ridge High School, spoke to the board, and he had a different opinion about the trustee’s decision.

“I’m proud of my district for listening to expert advice, citing central health district recommendations when making decisions,” Henkelmann said.

He also said he bragged about the school district and the decisions that have been made to colleagues of his at former school districts he has worked at.

“If my school district keeps listening to expert advice then I am going to keep bragging about it,” Henkelmann said as he also received some cheers from the crowd, but from a different group of people than Klaas.

Peggy Hoy, who is the NEA director for Idaho and was in attendance Monday, said teachers and staff definitely do have concerns because if an asymptomatic student brings the virus to the school, and spreads it to others it could be dangerous.

“It’s just not about them. It’s about we want to keep our community safe. We want to keep setting an example of the importance of taking care of yourself,” Hoy said

She also said educators don’t love the idea of a hybrid learning schedule, and it’s not ideal for the students or teachers, but they want to keep everyone safe and healthy.

“We know that face-to-face learning is the most important and beneficial for our students, but we also know we are in a pandemic and we need our students to be safe,” Hoy said.

On Tuesday, Klaas told KMVT: “Brady Dickinson (superintendent of TFSD) responded to my email today. It is unfortunate that it took getting ‘a little heated’ to get a response. Hopefully, they do a better job of communicating with the public going forward."

Copyright 2020 KMVT/KSVT. All rights reserved.

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