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Boise trustee resigns after criticizing government COVID-19 response

Coronavirus

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BOISE (IdahoEdNews.org) – Boise school board trustee Troy Rohn announced his resignation from the board in a letter decrying the state and federal government’s response to the coronavirus.

Rohn, a professor at Boise State University’s Department of Biological Sciences, submitted his letter to School Board President Dave Wagers on Thursday.

“As volunteer board members we have been put in an untenable position to make decisions that affect the physical and mental well-being of our staff and students,” Rohn wrote. “In my opinion both our federal and state governments have shirked their responsibilities in leaving these decisions to local school boards who have no expertise in these medical matters.”

In his letter of resignation, Rohn urged the board to consider appointing a successor with medical experience.

“The weight of our decisions where there are no winning solutions but only enhanced risks for our students and staff have had a huge effect on me and my own mental state,” Rohn wrote.

Local reopening decisions entrusted to school boards are the hallmark of the nonbinding guidance Gov. Brad Little and the State Board of Education approved this summer. Throughout the summer, Little, the State Board, President Trump and a host of state legislators encouraged schools to reopen for in-person learning at the beginning of the current term.

Boise, which was originally classified in the highest coronavirus risk category of “red”, began the year with online-only instruction.

As the board weighed its opening decision Aug. 4, Rohn asked for the community’s help in slowing the spread of the virus and shared how much the decision weighed on him.

“There are no winners tonight,” Rohn said at the time. “I take my responsibilities as a trustee very seriously, And one of those responsibilities is the safety of our students and our staff. Even if one teacher… contracted COVID and died, that would be on me for the rest of my life. I’m not ready to take that risk. I think the risk is way too high right now.”

Boise’s board has since pivoted to a phased, part-time return after Central District Health upgraded the district to the “yellow” risk category earlier this month.

Rohn was first elected to the school board in 2012. He was re-elected to another six-year term in 2018.

The seven-member school board leads Idaho’s second largest district, with an enrollment of about 26,000 students.

The board will conduct a special meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday to accept the resignation and discus a public process to fill the board vacancy, district spokesman Dan Hollar said.

Rohn’s term was not set to expire until 2024.

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