Citing that providing a safe environment for students and staff is its number one priority — the opening words of the school district’s mission statement — the Board of Trustees of Teton School District 401 voted unanimously Monday evening to extend home-based/online learning through the end of the academic school year. The decision came following two-plus hours of discussion of the district’s admin-team recommendation to continue the ‘soft closure’ due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The special school board meeting was scheduled in order to have several pieces of relevant information released last week: Governor Brad Little amended and extended Idaho’s stay-at-home order on Wednesday and the State Board of Education released school re-opening criteria on Thursday. The TSD admin team met Friday to analyze whether it was feasible for local public schools to go back into regular session based on each point of the criteria.

Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme presented the admin team’s recommendation point by point. Principals then gave specifics about their schools’ concerns and answered questions from the board.

The decision allows some specific one-on-one exceptions, where a few students may be able to meet with educators, including Career-Technical Education students who need to complete projects at THS, and those with Special Education needs at each of the schools. Those encounters, to be scheduled by teachers, service providers, and principals, will carefully follow CDC guidelines.

TEA President Angela Hoopes presented teachers’ viewpoints. James Corbett of Eastern Idaho Public Health also attended the virtual meeting and relayed his perspective.

The board directed Woolstenhulme and the admin-team to bring additional recommendations regarding THS graduation, honoring seniors, and other possible end-of-year activities to its May 11 regular meeting.

The meeting was live-streamed and is archived on the district’s Facebook page. The full admin-team recommendation is available on the district’s website in the folder of board documents for the special meeting. The link is: