BOISE, Idaho (KLIX)-Idaho schools will remain on a "soft closure" for the remainder of the school year, but local districts may have the option to bring back students to the classroom depending on the status of social distancing directives are lifted because of the the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Idaho State Board of Education voted this afternoon in a virtual meeting to extend the "soft closure" of public and charter schools across the state. At the same time the Board decided to give local school districts the option to the possibly reopen schools under criteria that will be developed at the next state board meeting. “We have areas of our state where COVID-19 cases have not occurred and we need to be flexible and provide guidance to our local districts and charters to make the best decisions for their areas,” State Board President Debbie Critchfield said in a prepared statement. “We will work on the criteria this week in consultation with public health officials and school leaders and take a formal vote at our special Board meeting next week.”

According to the motion made at today's meeting, the "soft closure" could be lifted when, "local and state social distancing orders have been lifted and re-entry criteria established by the Board have been met."

Schools will still operate under the earlier guidance of the Board to provide three essential services under the "soft closure" which are:

· Provide food services to underserved populations and childcare for community members who provide critical services.

· Develop and implement plans for delivering remote or distance learning strategies (online, video, teleconference, and packets).

· Develop a plan to provide special education-related services.