W.Va. schools mandated to return for full-time in-person learning

Posted 8 days ago


CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WSAZ) - A motion for PK-8 students to return to in-person instruction five days a week by March 3 went up for a vote Tuesday afternoon during a West Virginia Board of Education meeting and was passed unanimously.

According to the motion, counties are to return to the five-day, in-person model for pre-k – 8 students no later than March 3, 2021. To view the motion, click here.

The move replaces the Jan. 13, 2021, motion that required counties to offer at-least blended learning for families. This does not affect families that have chosen virtual learning for their children. Those children may remain with virtual learning through the end of the year.

Board members also recommended that high school students return to in-person instruction five days a week unless the county is listed as red on the state’s color-coded map. The Board of Education said grades 9 – 12 may remain with blended instruction if the infection rate in the community is high.

The motion also includes the option for county boards to apply for a special waiver to allow them to remain in remote education one day per week. This would be used for cleaning of school buildings and allow teachers to complete work for their virtual classes.

“Teachers are overly stressed by doing both the virtual and in-person instruction, and you can see why that would be stressful,” WVBE Vice President Tom Campbell said. “I am sure State Superintendent (Clayton Burch) is willing to work with all of the local superintendents with their needs and requests.”

Currently only 14 counties are in blended learning, 23 are in four-day-per-week and 18 are already in five-day-per-week instruction.

Prior to the vote, board members heard from Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s coronavirus czar.

Marsh presented data regarding the transmission of COVID-19 within the school system. In line with national research, the state’s data indicates minimal transmissions within schools, especially among younger learners.

The structure of the school system and school day, as well as the practiced mitigations, have shown to be effective in keeping schools safe, according to the data. As a result, the WVBE’s decision requires counties to move to a consistent full, five-day teaching model regardless of the county’s color on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Map.

“Early in the pandemic we thought school transmission was closely tied to community transmission rates,” said Dr. Marsh. “We’ve since learned this is not correct. We are finding that when mitigations are followed, schools are among the safest places for our children.”

“The decisions we are making are based on data,” said WVBE President Miller Hall. “According to Dr. Marsh, it is safe to return to five-days of instruction for our elementary and middle school students, and that is what we must do. Children don’t have equal access to technology, and it is very important to restore the support of the school system in the lives of our children. It’s time to return.”

Marsh told board members he believed it was safe for students to return to in-person learning and that in 2020 schools experienced no spread between teachers and students. However, Marsh said it was up to members to do what they felt was best for students, teachers and staff i... (Read more)