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Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 starting school year with ‘soft opening’

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POCATELLO — As the school year quickly approaches and COVID-19 rates continue to climb, the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 Board of Trustees says it is focusing on ways to keep students and staff safe.

At a special meeting held Tuesday, the board approved the district administration’s recommendation to start the 2020-21 school year with a blended, conservative approach.

“A soft opening will allow us to ease into the school year, identify any further operational adjustments that may need to be made and evaluate any spikes associated with reopening schools to inform our decision-making for how best to proceed,” according to a PCSD news release.

Kindergarten to fifth grade will start the year with a modified traditional instructional model. This means elementary students will be grouped in “cohorts” and receive face-to-face instruction five days per week.

Students in sixth grade through 12th grade will start the year with a hybrid instructional model where they’ll receive both face-to-face and remote instruction five days per week according to the following schedule:

  • Group A: Students with last names A-K will attend school in-person on Mondays and Thursdays with remote learning Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The first day of school for Group A will be Aug. 24.
  • Group B: Students with last names L-Z will attend school in-person on Tuesdays and Fridays with remote learning Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The first day of school for Group B will be Aug. 25.

Middle school students will receive their Chromebooks on their first day of school. The first day of remote learning for all students will be Aug. 26.

“PCSD 25 has learned over the past several months that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with the many challenges associated with COVID-19 in schools,” the news release states.

Southeastern Idaho Public Health Director Maggie Mann says the actions the district is taking are appropriate.

“Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 leadership is taking a proactive approach that helps to ensure educational growth for learners, while also reducing risk of the spread of COVID-19 to learners, faculty and staff, and thereby, our community,” Mann said in a news release. “SIPH supports their approach 100%.”

During the meeting, it was also announced that the swim programs had been reinstated at each PCSD 25 high school for 2020-21. And due to Idaho State University’s decision to temporarily suspend the use of Holt Arena, Highland High School and Pocatello High School will play football games at Iron Horse Stadium, and Century High School will play at Century’s football field.

The district remains steadfast in its commitment to approach the school year with the flexibility and agility outlined in the PCSD 25’s Roadmap for the 2020-21 School Year, according to the news release.

“We understand it’s not everybody’s perfect picture,” district spokeswoman Courtney Fisher told EastIdahoNews.com. “Our ultimate goal is to have learners in school, in person, as much as possible, for as long as possible, and hopefully, by taking this more conservative approach, we’ll be able to accomplish that goal.”

The timeline to re-evaluate and determine if the district can return fully to in-person, stay in current models or transition to remote learning will be made Sept. 4.

The modified traditional instructional model and hybrid instructional model. | Courtesy Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25
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