Leaders with the Moscow School District say they are considering returning students to in-person instruction toward the beginning of next month. Parents and teachers, however, have expressed concern over the potential move.

On Wednesday, Moscow Superintendent Greg Bailey presented the idea to parents and teachers in separate meetings, saying the move was “just a goal,” and was by no means a certainty as of yet. Bailey said the district is considering possibly discontinuing the hybrid instructional model Moscow schools have been operating under since the start of school and resuming in-person classes four days a week.

In early August, the Moscow School Board voted to begin the school year two weeks later than usual with a hybrid instructional model. The so-called “AA-BB” hybrid model describes a system with two cohorts of students, labeled “A” and “B,” that attend class in person on different days. “A” students attend in-person classes Mondays and Tuesdays, and “B” students are in school facilities Thursdays and Fridays. Instruction is delivered online for the remaining three days with all students learning from home Wednesdays.

Bailey said those students that signed up to attend class online only would continue to do so until the end of the semester.

“But rather than having the ‘A’ groups and the ‘B’ groups, we would bring them together,” Bailey said. “Right now we’d probably be looking at Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, so they’d only have one day out of school rather than three days.”

Before presenting the idea to parents in an online “Chat with the Superintendent” event, Bailey said he spoke with teachers about the idea Wednesday morning. JoyAnn Riley, co-president of the teacher’s union the Moscow Education Association, said teacher reactions to the proposal were mixed — many educators voiced similar concerns, with safety of the community, students and staff foremost among them.

“There are also logistical concerns over reintegrating students in-person and adding more online students to our system,” Riley said. “However, it is too soon in the information gathering process to fully comment on the opinions of teachers right now.”

Bailey said Latah County is currently considered a low-risk area by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He acknowledged there are local rises among specific groups in the surrounding community, like a recent spike among the University of Idaho’s Greek organizations, but those cases do not appear to have touched the local school district.

Parent and Pediatric Medical Director at Gritman Medical Center Summer Day, however, said this view does not consider potential outbreaks that could hit the community in the coming weeks. She said based on rises in cases among local college students, she would feel more comfortable observing trends for another few weeks before considering returning to face-to-face classes.

Bailey said he wanted to present the idea weeks ahead of potential implementation to give time for careful consideration and input from district stakeholders including teachers and parents.

“We are actually in the critical risk for numbers in the last week and the week before, we were in the moderate risk (category),” Day said in the online meeting Wednesday evening. “So although the whole county level is considered low risk because we don’t have any hospital stays, we are at the critical level just in the last week, so I’m personally a little reluctant — and I think the medical community would be — about a November 4th opening.”

Bailey said the move is by no means set in stone — but it is prudent to start considering these questions as the end of the first quarter of the semester nears. He said he wanted to present the idea weeks ahead of potential implementation to give time for careful consideration and input from district stakeholders including teachers and parents. He said he plans to consult all stakeholders carefully before arriving on a final recommendation but noted the decision to resume in-person instruction will ultimately be left to the board of trustees.

“We’ll do a survey — I think that’s really needed on this one. I want to get everyone’s voice on this, not just the loudest,” Bailey said. “The board will make that decision, I’m just saying this is a goal that we have … because I don’t think anyone really feels like we can continue this through the entire pandemic — this could be two years.”

Scott Jackson can be reached by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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