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New committees formed to address fall school reopening and digital divide

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BOISE, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Governor Brad Little announced the formation of two new committees to create a plan for reopening public schools this fall and a plan to address the “digital divide,” the inequity between students’ access to remote learning across Idaho.

The committees will support the Governor’s Office and the State Board of Education, which have been working with school districts for weeks on reopening options and making access to remote learning more consistent within and between school districts.

“Despite these extraordinary circumstances, it is my intent to have schools safely reopen across Idaho in the fall, although it may look different than it has in the past,” Governor Little said. “Both of the committees, led by State Board of Education members, can support and remove barriers to the fall reopening, provide clear expectations, and identify the tools to meet those expectations.”

The Public Schools Reopening Committee is chaired by Idaho State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield and includes participation from legislators, the State Department of Education, school district and charter school administrators, operations staff, business and industry representatives and state health officials.

“Our goal is to successfully reopen schools in the fall and provide clear expectations for student learning and guidance to school districts as they make their decisions locally,” Critchfield said. “Districts are discussing approaches to reopening and how to navigate the learning environment. Many decisions are contingent upon developing and changing conditions.”

The committee will make guidance and resources available to school districts and charter schools in the coming weeks.

State Board of Education member Kurt Liebich leads the Digital Divide Committee, which includes school technology directors, administrators, business leaders, and legislators. 

“When the pandemic forced the soft closure of schools and a transition to distance learning options, it became painfully clear just how wide the digital divide is,” Liebich said. “We will discuss access to devices for students and ways to improve connectivity throughout the state. Additionally, we will support school districts and charter schools as they develop strategies to implement a blended learning model. Robust learning management systems and professional development are also part of our overall vision for each and every public school in our state.”

Both committees are extensions of the Governor’s K-12 Emergency Council, formed in March to respond to the pandemic and advise the Governor on K-12 issues during these unprecedented times.

More information about the two committees, including meeting dates and membership, is posted on the State Board of Education website.

Members of the Public Schools Reopening Committee include:

  • Debbie Critchfield, Chair, State Board of Education
  • Linda Clark, State Board of Education
  • Sherri Ybarra, State Superintendent
  • Senator Carl Crabtree          
  • Representative Judy Boyle 
  • Representative John McCrostie
  • Greg Wilson, Governor’s Office
  • Brian Armes, Office of School Safety and Security
  • Spencer Barzee, Westside School District
  • Ryan Bowman, Twin Falls School District
  • Steve Cook, Coeur d’Alene School District
  • Bob Donaldson, Lewiston School District
  • Julie Douty, Vallivue School District
  • Jonathan Gillen, West Ada School District
  • Ty Jones, Idaho High School Sports Association
  • Karen Pyron, Butte School District Trustee
  • Donell McNeal, West Ada School District
  • Stephanie Myers, Boise School District
  • Angela Rodriguez, Cassia School District
  • Anne Ritter, Meridian Medical Arts Charter School Board
  • Rob Sauer, Homedale School District
  • Lisa Sherrick, State Department of Education
  • Gina Pannell, Central District Health

Members of the Digital Divide Committee include:

  • Kurt Liebich, Chair, State Board of Education
  • Greg Wilson, Vice Chair, Governor’s Office
  • Senator Jim Woodward      
  • Senator Janie Ward-Engelking       
  • Laurie Anderson, Micron Foundation
  • Toni Broyles, University of Idaho
  • Chris Campbell, State Department of Education
  • Marc Carignan, Bluum
  • Theresa Carter, Idaho Digital Learning Academy
  • Matt Compton, Idaho Education Association
  • Spencer Cook, Sugar Salem School District
  • Steve Cook, Coeur d’Alene School District
  • Seth Deniston, Coeur d’Alene School District
  • Keven Denton, West Ada School District
  • Karen Echeverria, Idaho School Boards Association
  • Eric Forsch, Department of Commerce
  • Marc Gee, Preston School District
  • Will Goodman, Idaho Digital Learning Academy
  • Rod Gramer, Idaho Business for Education
  • Andy Grover, Idaho Association of School Administrators
  • Cassidy Hall, Northwest Nazarene University, Doceo Center
  • Peter Jurhs, Nampa School District
  • Paula Kellerer, Nampa School District
  • Russell Miles, Orofino School District
  • Simon Miller, Kellogg School District
  • Andrew Moore, Glenns Ferry School District
  • Kelley Packer, Association of Idaho Cities
  • David Roberts, Boise School District
  • Terry Ryan, Bluum
  • Robert Sanchez, Idaho Business for Education
  • Steve Schellenburg, Snake River School District
  • Michelle VanBeek, Nampa School District
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