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Idaho Legislature Decides Who Can Close Schools In Emergencies

Courtesy of Post Falls School District

The Idaho Senate on Thursday approved two bills aimed at clarifying which entities have the authority to require schools and universities to close for public health emergencies.

Both take that authority away from public health districts. In the case of K-12, "What this bill seeks to do is it seeks to put that final authority for the ability to close or keep our schools open with the duly-elected board of trustees for any local school board, for any local school district," says Sen. Lori Den Hartog [R-Meridian]. She says her bill requires school districts to continue to consult with local health districts. And the health districts would retain the right to order quarantines in cases of infectious disease outbreaks.

In the case of community colleges, the closure authority would rest with the individual college boards of trustees. For colleges and universities, the authority would rest with the state Board of Education, a provision that drew a response from Sen. David Nelson [D-Moscow].

“I do question if the state Board of Education is the appropriate place to do that. That isn’t an elected body and they’re not local either," he said.

Both bills passed both houses handily and now move to the governor for his signature. They are two of several measures aimed at exerting legislative power and reining in the governor's authority during emergencies.