Idaho School Leaders Concerned by Covid Closures, Staffing Shortages

Sep 24, 2021

Idaho leaders are concerned about the growing number of cases in school age children. The high number of cases has led to school closures, and a higher number of absences than normal.
Credit Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

Idaho school districts have resumed in-person instruction, but many are struggling to stay open to due the rampant spread of the Delta variant and labor shortages.

In a briefing to the Idaho Board of Education, Andy Grover, the executive director of the Idaho School Administrators Association, said eight school staff members have died of COVID-19 this year. He said many workers have also left for hiring bonuses and higher wages in fast food.

“When there’s that kind of things to compete against, we don’t have a chance,” he said. “We just don’t have employees, we’ve seen from 2 or 3 classified staff, all the way to 60 classified staff that districts are missing across the state.”

He said three school districts were closed Friday, two due to staffing shortages and one because of COVID-19 cases among students. He said schools that are open are also struggling with lower than normal attendance.

Grover asked the State Board to consider offering more flexible funding for districts, and publicly support their work. He said many workers and local school board members are facing pushback for the closures and requests for mask wearing. 

Several board members said there was little they could do to change administrative rules at local school districts because of Idaho’s emphasis on local control.

Sherri Ybarra, the superintendent of public instruction for the state of Idaho, said the state had set aside $10 million in federal funding for staffing issues at school districts.