District 91 parents starting petition to recall school board members who voted for hybrid schedule

Lara Hill, top, Hillary Radcliffe and Elizabeth Cogliati. | Idaho Falls School District 91 and EastIdahoNews.com photos

IDAHO FALLS — Efforts to recall three Idaho Falls School District 91 school board members continues to move forward.

During a school board meeting on Sept. 30, the D91 school board voted 3-2 to move its high schools — Compass Academy, Skyline and Idaho Falls — to stage 3 or the yellow category of the D91’s Fall 2020 Reopening Plan. In this stage, which began Monday, students are on a hybrid schedule where they attend class two days a week and do two days online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The shift is being made because D91 is seeing a disproportionate number of its COVID-19 cases in the high schools, and the district is trying to be proactive to minimize the spread of the virus,” the district’s website reads. “In addition, we have seen high absentee rates in the high schools.”

RELATED | District 91 School Board votes on how to begin school this fall

Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, along with District 91 parents, started a petition to recall the three school board members who voted in favor of moving the high schools to the hybrid schedule. The three recall targets are Board Chairwoman Lara Hill (Zone 3) and trustees Hillary Radcliffe (Zone 5) and Elizabeth Cogliati (Zone 4).

Cogliati and Hill were both elected to the school board in November 2019. Radcliffe was appointed to fill a vacant seat in June 2019.

“We felt that they had stopped listening to the parents, their constituents,” Zollinger told EastIdahoNews.com. “We talked to them. They weren’t listening, so we thought the only way to do this is organize a recall petition.”

RELATED | Teacher’s union and advocacy group criticize D91 reopening plan

The group pushing for the recall, known as D91 Students Come First, has to have 20 signatures for its three petitions to get certified by the county clerk. Zollinger said once he takes the petitions to the clerk and it’s certified, they’ll have 75 days to collect the needed signatures to get the three names on the ballot in March.

They need 281 signatures in Zone 4, 480 in Zone 3 and about 1,400 in Zone 5.

“It’s too bad that we have to do this. I appreciate all three trustees and their willingness to serve,” Zollinger said. “It’s just unfortunate they’ve stopped listening to the constituents — the parents that have students in schools — and because of that, this is a necessary thing we have to do for the safety and the protection of the future of our children.”

Cogliati told EastIdahoNews.com that her actions and behavior are a representation of her following the recommendations of Eastern Idaho Public Health. She believes the hybrid schedule will reduce the number of kids who are being asked to stay at home due to exposure to infected individuals. She said the board has heard from many patrons who are concerned about students being asked to stay home.

“I’d like the public to give it a chance because this is the very first week,” Cogliati said. “Give it some time and see how it’s working for the kids (and) see how it’s working for the teachers.”

Before the school board meeting at the end of September, Chelsea Schofield, a parent and part-time sub in District 91, started a petition to shorten the length of student COVID-19 quarantines. Almost 630 people — mainly parents, but some students — signed the petition.

She has since helped organize the recall petition, and she said the overall attitude of the majority of parents in the area is that they want their kids to be in school.

“We didn’t expect the high school to get moved to the yellow plan (the hybrid) because technically, we still are in the criteria to be able to be in the blue plan,” she said.

The district’s back-to-school plan doesn’t mention any specific requirements to move a single school, several schools or all schools from the blue to yellow category other than stating it’s “based on guidance from health officials.” Schofield also says the district doesn’t have a plan for moving back to blue.

“I know it’s smart to take precautions, but we can’t create policies that revolve around people’s fears,” Schofield said. “I think that’s part of what has happened.”

If the schools go back to the blue plan — which means all students attend Mondays through Thursdays with online learning/interventions on Fridays — Schofield said they would have to talk as a group to decide if they should continue petitioning. She said that she feels to go back to the blue plan, it has to go hand in hand with changing the quarantine policy.

EastIdahoNews.com reached out to Hill and Radcliffe for comment, but they did not respond.

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