Moscow’s Logos School plans to reopen to live instruction Monday — so long as Idaho Gov. Brad Little lifts a statewide stay-at-home order in an announcement expected today.
Logos Superintendent Larry Stephenson said school leaders will monitor Little’s announcement and reactions from the Moscow City Council and mayor before making a final decision but noted school trustees voted in favor of reopening last week.
Logos School, established in Moscow in 1981, is a private, Christian K-12 school with more than 400 students.
Stephenson said Logos halted classes on March 6 and that the board “wants to have our children back in school as soon as possible.”
“(March 6) was before everybody else ... way before the city council and the state did what they did,” Stephenson said. “Our kids have been out for a while, and we think it’s we think it’s time now and we think we can do it here.”
Little on April 23 announced a four-phase plan to reopen Idaho’s economy after implementing statewide social distancing orders to curb the spread of COVID-19 in mid-March. The first phase is slated to begin Friday. Moscow City Council is expected to make a decision to rescind, revise or leave in place its own emergency orders in a meeting following the governor’s expected announcement.
City Supervisor Gary Riedner said none of these local emergency orders prohibit schools in Moscow from reopening. A citywide Public Health Emergency Order effective until May 5 does prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people in a facility within Moscow city limits, but because the Idaho State Board of Education did not extend it, the part of that order pertaining to schools expired April 20.
The SBOE instead left it to the discretion of individual districts to open if they meet certain criteria, the first of which requires that statewide and local stay-at-home orders be lifted. This left the door open for private schools to open regardless of whether they meet those criteria.
“On April 15 Governor Little deferred the decision to reopen schools to the Idaho State Board of Education, who then deferred to local school boards,” reads a letter sent to Logos families April 21. “While not technically governed by the (SBOE), this decision gave our board the latitude to reopen school.”
Citing those same SBOE criteria, Superintendent of Moscow Public Schools Greg Bailey told the Daily News last week he believes most public schools in the state will choose to remain closed through the end of the school year.
Stephenson said if Logos does reopen, in-person attendance will be optional and the school will take precautions to limit the possibility of contributing to an outbreak. This includes shortening school days by one hour to give teachers time to clean and prepare work for students who elect to stay home, staggering class release times to keep from crowding hallways and canceling electives and choirs.
Stephenson said the school’s smaller student body will make it easier to follow state and federal guidelines to keep gatherings small. He said he expects 300 students to return to live instruction if the school reopens Monday.
“We’re half the size of the public schools,” he said, noting Logos classes aren’t usually much larger than a dozen students. “And our parents are given the choice — if we do open, they’re given a choice to come or stay (at home), so that’ll even make our classroom sizes much smaller.”
Additionally, Stephenson said virtually all extracurriculars, activities and events are canceled — though they’re still waiting to see if in-person graduation can move forward which will depend on guidance from the governor’s office. If, by the end of May, state and federal guidelines allow for gatherings of up to 50 people, the school will consider holding a live commencement ceremony, though attendees and graduates might be a little more spread out than usual.
He notes “a lot of things (need) to happen between now and then” but it will be easier to facilitate their graduating class of 19 than it would be for the much larger public schools in the area.
Moscow’s other private school, St.Mary’s Catholic School, said it will remain closed for the rest of the school year. St.Mary’s Principal Jennifer Beller said she believes it is unlikely any of the state’s 16 Catholic schools will elect to reopen. While St.Mary’s, like Logos, does not technically fall under the auspices of the SBOE, Beller said she does not feel confident her school could meet the criteria they recommend for schools that wish to restart live instruction.
“We cannot meet the guidelines that are set forth out there in a way we feel that would be protecting of students’ families and staff and faculty,” she said. “We just flat out cannot meet the guidelines at this time.”
A spokeswoman for Idaho Public Health - North Central District replied to a request for comment with a statement confirming that the decision for private schools in the state to reopen is left to the discretion of their administrators and boards. They did not comment on the possible public health implications of such a move.
Scott Jackson can be reached by email to email@example.com.