• BCSD School Board Trustees

    Rob Clayton, Vice Chair Kelly Green, Chair Keith Roark, Amber Larna, Lara Stone

     

    Dual Immersion Program Consolidation

     

    The Blaine County School Board of Trustees would like to share some facts about the recent decision to consolidate the dual immersion (DI) program at Ernest Hemingway STEAM School (EHSS) with the DI magnet school Alturas Elementary. The decision was made by the board with regret due to an ongoing and recently exacerbated shortage of qualified DI teachers, leaving us unable to appropriately staff both programs. The board made this difficult decision based on the fact that 1) there is capacity for every EHSS DI student to continue in the DI program at Alturas, 2) transportation will be provided from EHSS for those EHSS DI students wishing to attend the DI program at Alturas, and 3) extra supports will be provided for rising first and second graders who remain at EHSS if they need extra assistance to adjust to the English-only program. For more information, please see the full story here.

    1. RECOMMENDATION The board acted upon the request and recommendation of district administration and EHSS administration to transfer the dual immersion (DI) program at Ernest Hemingway STEAM School (EHSS) to Alturas Elementary, the district’s DI magnet school. To be clear, the decision does not terminate the DI program in the Blaine County School District (BCSD). It leaves in place and strengthens the Alturas magnet school, one of the premier DI programs in the state. While the board takes full responsibility for its approval of the recommendation, it is important to note that it did not initiate the proposal.

    2. PHASING OUT The board would have preferred a gradual phase out of the EHSS DI program so that all currently enrolled students could complete it at EHSS. Unfortunately, the DI staffing shortage at both EHSS and Alturas meant that option would have had a significant impact on many other students and staff.

    3. HISTORY When the BCSD DI program started in 2001, different portions of the program were offered at Bellevue, Hailey, Hemingway and Woodside elementary schools. When the Board of Trustees made the decision to consolidate the program in 2014 and create the Alturas magnet school, many argued that the Hemingway program should be part of that consolidation. When the STEAM program was initiated in 2017, Hemingway Elementary School became EHSS and added a middle school for grades 6 – 8.

    4. CONSOLIDATION The recent recommendation of the district and building administrators was, in essence, a transfer of the EHSS DI program to Alturas and a consolidation of all DI learning. No other school in the district maintains an elementary school, middle school, STEAM program and dual immersion program. Consolidation of all DI programs at Alturas strengthens and standardizes DI learning and leaves in place the middle school and STEAM program at EHSS.

      Maintaining both the single strand and a fully integrated program did not represent a best practice. Whereas the Alturas program utilizes a team approach in which each class is taught by one native English speaker and one native Spanish speaker, the EHSS program utilized a single teacher format in which the language and non-language content was taught by one teacher who was either native Spanish or native English speaking. That teacher at times had to teach concepts (such as photosynthesis) in their non-native language. Experience has shown over the years that a teacher who is bilingual and/or biliterate is not necessarily capable of teaching academic subject matter in both languages, making these particularly difficult positions to fill. Moreover, at a time when recruiting qualified teachers for DI programs is extremely difficult nationwide, having two schools competing against each other for the few qualified DI teachers who might be available hurts both schools.

    5. SHORT NOTICE The request and recommendation to the Board regarding reassignment of the DI program to Alturas was made on short notice and the board fully acknowledges and regrets that fact. It would have been better for all concerned had the recommendation been made much earlier, but the upcoming DI lottery, kindergarten registration, and severe staffing issues would only be complicated by delaying the decision. Two teaching positions were unfilled at the time of our decision and two of the remaining teachers were unwilling to accept reassignment to a different grade.

    6. INFORMED VOTE Although the discussion by the board regarding the issue lasted about an hour, each individual trustee worked many hours prior to the meeting to study the proposal and its ramifications so that their votes would be informed. No trustee took any pleasure in making this decision and all trustees recognize that many students, particularly rising first and second graders, could be adversely affected without additional support. The district administration as well as the principals of EHSS and Alturas are fully committed to providing the necessary support to address any such impact on students. They have already conducted meetings with parents of EHSS DI students.

    7. PUBLIC COMMENT While the time frame was shorter than the board would have preferred, ample opportunity for public comment was afforded via email to the board clerk who distributed all comments to all trustees. This form of public comment has proven to be superior to live comment in that it affords the commenting party time to organize and present their ideas and also provides more time for individual trustees to absorb and consider public input. More than fifty email comments and several calls were received by the trustees, most of which echoed the same sentiments. The board made its decision recognizing that every parent who had a child in the EHSS DI program would likely be opposed to consolidation with the Alturas magnet school.

      Public comment, although not required by law, is considered by this board of trustees to be of substantial value to the decision-making process. However, public comment is not intended to be a vote that is somehow binding on the board of trustees. Popularity of a particular decision is not the measure of what does or does not constitute a wise, well-informed decision, and delaying the decision to allow for more public comment would not have resolved the staffing shortage issue.

    8. RESPONSIBILITY The board is responsible for operating a school system, not just one school. Not all programs can be offered at every elementary school in the district. Hemingway’s STEAM school curriculum and approach is not available at Carey, Bellevue, Alturas or Hailey or, for that matter, as a school-wide program at WRMS. For example, there is no DI program at the Carey School and any student in that zone who wishes to take part in DI learning is required to provide their own transportation to Alturas, almost twice the distance between EHSS and Alturas. Any student residing south of the EHSS boundary lines who desires to attend EHSS and is awarded a spot through the lottery is expected to provide their own transportation to and from Ketchum. Nonetheless, the board of trustees is taking responsibility to provide transportation to Alturas for any student currently enrolled in the EHSS DI program who wishes to continue DI learning. We want to make sure that a lack of transportation does not prevent students from continuing in DI.

    9. MOTIVATION Finally, the claim made by a parent that the decision to consolidate is racially motivated is without foundation. The board’s commitment to DI learning and the needs of our Hispanic students who are not native English speakers is exemplified by its support of the Alturas magnet school, which in fact has shown them better academic success than the EHSS program over time. Such claims are unfounded and disregard the actual problem: a severe shortage of qualified bilingual and biliteral teachers to staff two programs.

     

    Coronavirus Update

     

    5/1/2020 - A LETTER OF GRATITUDE TO BCSD STAFF

    Dear BCSD Colleagues,

    The COVID-19 pandemic brings stark memories, at least for those of us old enough to remember, of other episodes of national trauma: the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy; the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

    We recall the fear and uncertainty brought on by those events as well as the trusted adults who provided us the comfort and assurance we needed to face our fears and move on. Among the most important of those trusted adults were our teachers and other school staff. Today we are in the midst of another crisis. Our world has been turned upside down by a microscopic virus and our students look to us and the other significant adults in their lives for that same comfort, assurance and inspiration to meet whatever challenges the future may hold.

    In these uncertain times, we are so proud of you, the BCSD family. We watch with pride as you take on this new challenge with dedication and ingenuity. Your ability to adjust, improvise and keep your focus on the welfare of our students is an inspiration to them and to this community. You have:

    • Fed students thousands upon thousands of lunches and breakfasts
    • Disinfected every inch of our buildings multiple times over
    • Cleaned and packaged and repaired hundreds and hundreds of Chromebooks
    • Called students time and time again to provide emotional support
    • Distributed Chromebooks to families while keeping the community safe
    • Relentlessly pursued a multitude of ways to connect families to the Internet for distance learning
    • Developed learning schedules and Google Hangouts that help establish routine in student lives
    • Developed and executed thousands of online lessons with the first one you ever developed being just weeks ago
    • Connected parents with desperately needed resources
    • Grieved with students and families at the loss of many of school springtime rites of passage
    • And most of all, you have expressed your care and concern for your students, your colleagues and your community.

    There are no words to adequately express our gratitude. We honor and applaud you for all that you do and have done for our students during this Educator Appreciation Week. Thank you for being there for our students, each other and our community.

    With deep gratitude,

    R. Keith Roark, Chairman of the Board of Trustees

    GwenCarol Holmes, Superintendent

     

    4/15/2020 - LAST DAY OF SCHOOL IS UNCHANGED - MAY 22

    In the regular board meeting last night, the Blaine County School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to submit a request to the Idaho State Board of Education for a waiver regarding the amount of instructional time required in a normal school year (rather than extend the school year to make up for lost instructional time due to the coronavirus pandemic). This will keep the last day of school for distance learning on Friday, May 22, consistent with the current 2019-2020 school calendar. The last day for teachers is Thursday, May 28. 

     

    4/7/2020 - DISTANCE LEARNING WILL CONTINUE THROUGH THE END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR 

    Yesterday, the Idaho State Board of Education ordered a “soft closure” of all public and charter schools throughout the state. What this means for the Blaine County School District is that our buildings will remain closed through the rest of this school year and all instruction will be delivered through our distance learning program, which we began rolling out today after extensive planning and preparation. We recognize that students, parents and our teachers have questions and concerns about the ramifications of this development including, but not limited to, standardized tests, graduation and post-high school education opportunities. We are in the process of adding a question and answer forum on our website where up to date information about our program for the remainder of the year can be sought and obtained in a timely manner. We anticipate having this Q and A up in the next day or two. We will also be posting daily updates and messages from the superintendent and Board of Trustees as appropriate as well as on our COVID-19 page. 

    We ask for your patience and understanding during these unprecedented and challenging times. We welcome your questions, comments, suggestions and constructive criticism as we work our way through the final two months of this school year. You can send your questions or comments to the board and superintendent at clerk@blaineschools.org. Every member of our team is razor focused on our mission and, as they always have, our teachers will do whatever it takes to inspire, educate, engage and empower every single student of this district.

    R.Keith Roark, Chairman Board of Trustees

    GwenCarol Holmes, Ed.D., Superintendent

     

    4/3/2020 - DISTANCE LEARNING UPDATE BY BOARD CHAIR KEITH ROARK

    The Board of Trustees of the Blaine County School District is committed to transparency in dispatching its obligations to our students, parents, teachers, staff and community. To that end, I want to address some of the concerns that have been expressed by concerned members of the community.

    On Saturday, March 14, 2020, within hours of learning that the first case of coronavirus had been confirmed in Blaine County, we made the decision to immediately close our school buildings. Given how fast the virus spread regardless, we can only imagine how much worse things would have been had we not acted so quickly. Immediately following the closure order, our leadership team began planning for distance learning. This district, from the time of its formation, has operated on the traditional classroom learning model. Transition from that model to an alternative program is not a simple matter. Furthermore, the highly contagious nature of this virus dictates that our distance learning plan will, to the greatest extent possible, ensure the safety of our students and staff during whatever period of time it will be in place.

    Many parents and students are frustrated with the speed at which our administrators are rolling out the distance learning program and the board fully acknowledges and understands that frustration. Online learning is the best, quickest and simplest alternative to classroom learning and many people have asked why we have not already gone online. What people may not understand, however, is that as many as one quarter of our students and some of our teachers do not have high-speed internet access and some families have been forced to terminate their internet service for economic reasons. Thus, our administrative staff is tasked with having to roll out two different distance learning programs: one for students with high-speed access and one for those without such access and both programs must be in place at or very near the same time.

    Because teachers will not have the opportunity to observe and communicate with students face to face, a protocol for maintaining at least some one-on-one contact had to be designed prior to starting distance learning. Additionally, state and federal law requires the district to extend equal educational opportunities to students with special education needs and that mandate dictates further adjustment to any plan for distance learning. We are not offering excuses but merely stating the facts and circumstances that must be faced and dealt with as we leave classroom instruction and transition to an alternative.

    Finally, our highly skilled and well-regarded teachers have been working hard to develop content that can reach both students with high-speed internet access and those without it. This kind of retooling does not take place overnight and our teachers have invested tremendous time and energy to meet the challenge. Our distance learning plan was actually completed on March 21, subject of course to on-going revisions and adjustments dictated by further study and experience going forward. Unfortunately, we failed to communicate quickly and effectively with the public about the distance learning plan and its components. As chairman of the board I take full responsibility for this oversight and the confusion it has caused. I have taken steps to ensure that the plan is posted on our website here and distributed to all media outlets and updated as we move forward.

    We are well aware that some school districts have implemented online learning more rapidly than we have. It must be noted, however, that no district in this state has suffered such high rates of infection and we have not had the luxury of developing and implementing our distance learning plan in an infection free environment. There are still many districts in the state in which no coronavirus cases have yet been confirmed. In fact, our school closure and commencement of planning for distance learning occurred at a time when the State Board of Education was advising school districts to keep their schools open.

    The Board of Trustees fully understands its duty to provide a quality education to all students in the district. Nonetheless, the health and safety of our students and staff is a priority and if that concern has slowed the rollout of our distance learning plans we hope the community will understand. We are extremely appreciative of the support received from this wonderful community and also appreciate the questions and criticism some of you have expressed. There is no playbook, no manual to guide us; the board and our entire staff have no choice but to play this by ear.

    These are times no one ever imagined and we do not claim to have easy answers to every challenge. But we can and do promise that every senior who was on track to graduate before the school closure will still graduate, assuming they satisfactorily complete distance learning assignments. Every student in every grade in every school will receive all of the quality instruction we can possibly deliver. Every teacher will be supported and every teacher will do his or her very best to keep our schools on task no matter how hard this pestilence hits our community. This school district will not just survive, it will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.

     

    3/30/2020 - SCHOOL CLOSURE EXTENDED UNTIL AT LEAST APRIL 20

    The Board of Trustees voted to extend the School Closure until at least April 20 in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of students, staff, and community members. At the April 14 regular Board Meeting, Trustees will assess the current situation and determine whether to continue with distance learning after April 20. Distance learning will begin on April 6, when teachers will initiate personal contact with students to reestablish student-teacher relationships. 

    Watch the webcast for the March 30 Special Board Meeting here.

      

    3/24/2020 - MARCH 30 BOARD MEETING TO DISCUSS SCHOOL CLOSURE

    The Blaine County School District Board of Trustees will meet on Monday, March 30, 2020. The Board will be considering the extension of school closures in light of the order from the State Board of Education that we adopt a “soft closure” until at least April 20. We will also be discussing plans for distance learning during the closure. We remain confident that our seniors who were on track to graduate at the time our initial closure began on March 16 will still be able to graduate this spring pursuant to the guidelines and waivers from the State Board of Education, yet to be finalized. All interested persons are invited to attend the March 30 meeting through an internet platform that is being tested at the present time. There will be no physical gathering of either the board or the public. Please refer to our website for instructions on how to access the meeting using your electronic devices.

    Please note: The BCSD Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 30 at 5:30 p.m.

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    3/20/2020 - BCSD STAFF SHELTER IN PLACE PROCEDURE

    In light of the shelter in place order for Blaine County instituted by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the Blaine County School District Board of Trustees has ordered the following procedure be implemented immediately for the safety of our employees and our community. Employees in violation of these procedures risk disciplinary action, including dismissal for cause.

    1. All district employees should work from home, not in district buildings or in groups gathered in other locations. To be clear, "everyone" includes the maintenance team, superintendent, teachers, communications manager, custodians, admin assistants, finance manager, HR team, etc.
    2. Conference calls, video conferences, email, texting and other methods of communication should be used instead of in-person meetings.
    3. Only one employee shall be assigned to and allowed to be in each building. The superintendent will provide the board with a list of such authorized person for each school as soon as practicable and confirm that all employees have vacated the district office building and all other district buildings no later than 5:00 p.m today. No one else shall return to any district building until authorized by the board of trustees. Any changes to that list must be approved by the Board Chair or, in his absence, the Vice Chair or in the event neither Chair nor Vice Chair is available, any other trustee.
    4. We expect all employees to adhere to the mandated Shelter in Place policies.

    Exceptions are granted for:

    1. Staff involved in preparing and delivering Grab and Go lunches. This has been deemed an essential service by the County EOC.
    2. Custodial staff, once given permission by EOC/SCPHD to go and disinfect buildings. Howie Royal will let staff know when this has been granted.
    3. The District Office may at times have up to three people due to the nature of tasks that can only be done from there: Communications, Finance, and the Superintendent. These staff are requested to stay in their own offices and communicate via phone/computer.

    One staff member has been assigned to each building:

    Alturas - Brad Henson
    Bellevue - Mark Sauvageau
    Carey - John Peck
    Hailey - Toni Boush
    Hemingway - Tish Short
    SCHS - Mike Glenn
    WRHS - John Pearce
    WRMS - Rob Ditch
    Technology - Teresa McGoffin
    Buildings and Grounds - Howie Royal

    These procedures will be in place until they are re-assessed at our board meeting on March 30. Please direct any questions or concerns to Board Chair Keith Roark.

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    3/18/20 - SCREENING UPON RETURN TO SCHOOL

    The Blaine County School District Board of Trustees is following the Coronavirus crisis very closely and we have scheduled additional special board meetings for the weeks ahead to stay on top of the situation and provide guidance as needed. We realize that many families have plans for out of state travel during the spring break and, although we advise against such travel, we have no authority to interfere with those plans. However, everyone should be aware that, pursuant to Idaho Code Section 33-512(7), we have the duty and authority “To exclude from school, pupils with contagious or infectious diseases who are diagnosed or suspected as having a contagious or infectious disease or those who are not immune and have been exposed to a contagious or infectious disease; and to close school on order of the state board of health and welfare or local health authorities.”

    This means that before schools re-open measures will have to be taken to screen all returning students to assure those who are infected with the virus are excluded from school property until proper treatment can be received. How such screening will be structured has not yet been determined but we will have the process in place prior to re-opening. We hope to be able to re-open on April 6 but all students and parents should be prepared for extended closure if that becomes necessary. Please be assured that the district staff and board of trustees are working hard to manage this situation in the least intrusive and most effective manner possible.


    Community Survey Results - December 2019

    English Language Survey:
    Charts and Comments      
    Charts only      

    Spanish Language Survey:
    Charts only


    Duties of the Trustees of Blaine County School District

    The powers and duties of the Trustees of Blaine County School District are set forth throughout Title 33 of the Idaho Code and policies of the Idaho State Department of Education and are summarized in terms of nine broad functions.

    1. To establish the educational policies of the school district;
    2. To determine the personnel policies of the school system;
    3. To select and employ a well-qualified superintendent of schools to manage the system;
    4. To employ the necessary personnel upon the recommendation of the superintendent of schools;
    5. To establish the educational and administrative structure of the school system, external and internal;
    6. To provide and maintain the physical plant and equipment;
    7. To assume and carry out the responsibility for the raising, spending, and accounting for the funds to support the school system;
    8. To evaluate the accomplishments of the system;
    9. To plan for the continued effectiveness and further improvement of the school system.

    Best Practices of School Board Trustees

    The Board of Trustees ascribes to the Best Practices set forth in BCSD policy 218:

    1. Values and Ethical Behavior

    To be effective, an individual school trustee:

    1. Places students’ needs first.
    2. Demonstrates commitment to equity and high standards of achievement for each student.
    3. Commits to treating each individual with dignity and respect.
    4. Models high ethical standards.
    5. Advocates for public education.

    2. Leadership

    To be effective, an individual school trustee:

    1. Contributes to thoughtful governance discussions and decisions by being well informed, open-minded and deliberative.
    2. Understands that authority rests with the board as a whole and not with individual trustees.
    3. Is able to articulate and model appropriate school trustee roles and responsibilities.
    4. Actively participates in school trustee duties and responsibilities.
    5. Demonstrates group membership and leadership skills, working within the board structure.
    6. Respects the board’s role in policy making and supports all adopted board policies.

    3. Communication

    To be effective, an individual school trustee:

    1. Builds and maintains positive connections with the community and staff.
    2. Communicates accurately and honestly, with awareness of the impact of his/her words and actions.
    3. Listens carefully and with an open mind.
    4. Maintains civility and treats all people with respect.
    5. Maintains confidentiality of appropriate matters.
    6. Refers and guides people with concerns to appropriate staff.
    7. Welcomes parent, student and community input.

    4. Professional Development

    To be effective, an individual school trustee:

    1. Commits the time and energy necessary to be informed and competent.
    2. Keeps abreast of current issues, research, applicable laws, regulations, and policies that affect public education.
    3. Participates in professional development, individually and with the board/superintendent team.

    5. Accountability

    To be effective, an individual school trustee:

    1. Is accountable to the community, staff, and fellow Board Trustees.
    2. Takes personal responsibility for his/her own words and actions.
    3. Respects and abides by board decisions.
    4. Meets expectations for transparency, including disclosing potential conflicts of interest and refraining from discussing or voting on those issues.
    5. Complies with board policies/procedures and the law. 

    For more information on School Board Trustee elections:

    Read the Guide for School Board Candidates.

    The Appointment and Certification of Political Candidate Form and the Special District Candidate Filing Guidelines must be completed, notarized and given to the Board Clerk by the last day for filing declarations of candidacy (a Friday in early September) at 5:00 p.m. at the Blaine County School District office, 118 West Bullion Street in Hailey. 2019 Election Timeline

Board Meetings

  • Special Meeting - Zone 4 Trustee Appointment Interview

    Tuesday, June 2, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.

    118 W. Bullion St. Hailey, Idaho / Virtual Meeting

    Notice / Agenda

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