LPOSD board votes to continue distance learning until May 29

School year will end early after May 29

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

The Lake Pend Oreille School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously at its May 6 virtual meeting to extend distance learning until May 29 — ending the 2019-2020 school year a week earlier than planned for most students. The last day for graduating seniors was originally scheduled for June 1, while other elementary and secondary pupils were to continue classes until June 5.

LPOSD Superintendent Tom Albertson told the board he was “holding out some hope” to bring students back before June 5, but that it would have been too difficult to do so while adhering to Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s four-phase COVID-19 reopening plan.

Idaho is currently in Phase 1, during which public and private gatherings are to be avoided, with Phase 2 protocols running from May 16-29. Under Phase 2, both public and private gatherings of more than 10 people are not recommended.

Albertson said obstacles to reopening included food service, which would have required district kitchens to operate as restaurants under reopening guidelines, with rules in place separating tables by 10 feet and also limiting the number of seats to six per table.

“Even if we were to eat in a classroom setting, that wasn’t going to be possible,” Albertson said. “We explored everything we could; but, again, that’s a big obstacle in our way.”

Telling the board it was “one of the hardest recommendations I’ve made to the board this year,” Albertson directed instructors and administrators to use the week between May 29 and June 5 to recover more than 1,700 district-owned Chromebooks and textbooks currently loaned to students to facilitate distance learning.

Trustee Geraldine Lewis asked whether graduating high-school seniors would have enough credits to graduate. Albertson confirmed that the class of 2020 will carry enough credits through a waiver signed by the Idaho State Board of Education, which has already approved a waiver granting seniors their average daily attendance requirement.

Trustee Gary Suppiger — who is also a candidate for Idaho District 1-Seat B representative — asked what plans are in place to recognize graduating seniors, to which Albertson responded that there will be a graduation ceremony, though details have yet to be finalized.

“We don’t know what it’s going to look like yet,” Albertson said. “It is currently scheduled for June 3, 4 or 5. … We will recognize our graduates. It will look different, but we’re working with the Panhandle Health District to give them the best ceremony and recognition possible.”

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