Healthcare, Latest News, State Government, West Virginia Legislature

Legislative leaders urge governor to close schools for the rest of the school year

MORGANTOWN — State legislative leaders of both parties have called on Gov. Jim Justice to close schools through the rest of the year as a coronavirus precaution. Justice earlier this week announced a tentative back-to-school date of April 30, with schools set to finish the year no later than June 6.

Justice dismissed the idea during his Thursday coronavirus press briefing, saying it’s too soon to decide.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, and House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, delivered a letter to Justice on Thursday making the plea.

“Current public health modeling projections suggest the COVID-19 virus will peak during the first week of May in West Virginia,” they wrote. “Based upon these projections, we believe it would be wise to fall on the side of caution and keep students at home for the remainder of the 2020 school year rather than risk sending our children into potentially hazardous and untenable learning environments.”

They note that Justice has already moved the primary election from May 12 to June 9 because of the potential hazards. Teachers, students and staff will all be subject to risk by returning to classrooms before the pandemic has wound down. They would all benefit from the certainty, and be prepared to gear up for the 2020-21 school year.

“By that point, this pandemic likely will be behind us and much brighter days would be ahead.”

During the downtime, they wrote, they encourage all students to be voracious readers and keep learning from home.

The pandemic, they wrote, has re-emphasized the need for West Virginia’s schools to deploy distanced-based learning tools and the ability to teach students via video feed and other technological channels.

“The critical need for reliable, world-class broadband service is a vital element of this educational methodology,” they wrote. “We challenge ourselves and call upon all other state and local leaders to facilitate the rapid deployment and/or enhancement of technology infrastructure in the West Virginia public education system with the goal of delivering superior educational content in a distance learning environment.

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