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Local school turns to remote learning one week after opening due to COVID-19

Coronavirus

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BLACKFOOT — A local elementary is already feeling the effects of COVID-19, just days after students were welcomed back to school.

Rockford Elementary, a part of Snake River School District 52 near Blackfoot, recently sent a letter home to parents explaining the situation. The note is dated Aug. 24 and signed by Principal Dave Dougal.

“Since our return to school, Rockford Elementary has experienced an increase in community spread of COVID-19 among staff members,” the letter states. “Fortunately, the community spread appears to be limited to staff members as student attendance has remained constant.”

Dougal goes on to explain that “due to the concern for the health and well-being of all staff members and all of our students,” the elementary will be moving to home remote learning from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.

Superintendent Mark Kress told EastIdahoNews.com Wednesday morning that there are four confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff members and zero among students. Rockford has approximately 12 employees and about 145 students, according to Kress.

“Our protocol basically says if we have evidence of community spread, then we isolate the cases, go to hybrid learning and try to get it out, and then get back to school,” Kress says. “Mostly, it deals with the idea of it’s very difficult at this point and time to get substitutes, as well as, we hope to eradicate the spread.”

Rockford elementary COVID letter
The letter sent to parents with children who attend Rockford Elementary.

Kress pointed out that most of the teachers and some students are in the building today working in a hybrid format. He says they are still accommodating for students with two working parents.

“We have a much less number of students present at the school,” Kress explained. “We have some in face instruction, but most kids are in remote learning for about the next week and a half.”

Kress says a cleaning process got underway Tuesday night at the school building. A cleaning agency did a deep cleanse, and fogger machines were also used to sanitize the elementary. He added they’re also still using hand sanitizer, and the staff is wearing face masks.

The letter says that teachers will be available during home remote learning via email. One fourth-grade teacher will be in the building next week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for those who “have a need for some face-to-face interaction and instructional help for your student.”

Dougal mentions in the letter that if home remote learning “creates a true hardship for you in your home,” to email him so a possible alternative plan for the student can be discussed.

“I’m disappointed that we’re back in this situation. Everybody hoped that it would fade away, but COVID is still around,” Kress mentioned. “Our healthcare facilities have informed us of their dire needs. We don’t necessarily have an outbreak that’s outrageous, but we’re trying to make sure that we don’t have an outbreak that’s outrageous.”

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