New Committees to Address Fall School Reopening and the Digital Divide

Press release from Idaho Governor Brad Little

Boise, Idaho – Governor Brad Little announced today the formation of two new committees to create a plan for reopening public schools this fall and a plan to address the “digital divide,” a term that describes 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 at https://boardofed.idaho.gov/covid-19/k-12-emergency-council-subcommittees/.

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