Education, Latest News, Monongalia County

Monongalia County’s first week of back to school planned for fall pending pandemic situation

It’s no longer the elephant in the room, Monongalia County’s assistant of schools Donna Talerico said, last week.

Now, she said, it’s simply the dominant character of the coronavirus.

Which, she said, has a way of making things into a primal, minute-by-minute capsule.

Such as last week, she said, as commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020 at Morgantown High, University and Clay-Battelle were being finalized.

“We’ll get our seniors graduated,” she said.

“Then we’ll get everybody else back to school.”

And all that implies, she said.

Mon’s seniors went forth last Thursday in outdoor ceremonies on the football field at their respective alma maters.

Metaphorically (and meteorologically) speaking, most of the graduates said, it was quite appropriate for their senior year that wasn’t.

What (literally) came down during Commencement, they meant.

Weather patterns and pandemics, you know.

Clouds roiled overhead, liquid drops pocked their mortar boards, then a double-rainbow (faintly) peeked out when it was done.

Steering around COVID-clouds, meanwhile, is what the district wants to achieve for academic year 2020-21.

Back-to-school special?

The only truly definitive thing for now, the district said, is that Aug. 20, will, indeed, be the first day of school in Mon.

A rotating, staggered mix of in-school instruction and remote learning will follow during that first week, the district said.

The tentative, in-school schedule:

Thursday, Aug. 20: Grades 1, 5, 8 and 12, in-school.

Friday, Aug. 21: Grades 2, 4, 7 and 11, in-school.

Monday, Aug. 24: Kindergarten, grades 3, 6 and 10, in-school.

Tuesday, Aug. 25: Kindergarten, grades 2, 8 and 9, in-school.

Wednesday, Aug. 26: Pre-kindergarten, grades 5, 7, 9 and 12, in-school.

Thursday, Aug. 27: Pre-kindergarten, grades 4, 6, 10 and 11, in-school.

Friday, Aug. 28: Grades 1 and 3, plus all middle- and high school grades, in-school.

Monday, Aug. 31: All grades, in-school.

Saving face in class

All of the above, Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said, is tentative, in that one doesn’t know what turns COVID-19 will take through the summer and into fall.

“We’ll concentrate on helping our kids reacclimate to classroom culture,” he said.

If there’s no surge in cases, he said.

If there is, it’s back to remote learning, and Charleston would have the final word on that mandate.

And even if it’s back in the actual classroom, in the actual building, there are still all those pandemic particulars to consider, as Campbell and members of Mon’s Board of Education have long been saying over the past weeks of COVID-19 — such as making the technical, distance-learning provisions for the parents who don’t want to send their children back to school at all.

There’s the matter of the face mask.

Or, the facial covering, depending upon your political expression.

Teachers across the country, especially those who spent their days in the front of special-needs classrooms before the quarantine, have worried about whether they will be able to effectively communicate with their faces partially obscured.

Governors across the country, including West Virginia’s Jim Justice, are grappling with the idea of whether to mask-up.

That’s because one person’s way of reducing spread of the virus is another’s swipe of personal freedom.

In Monongalia County last week, the school district, working with the county health department, called to make face masks mandatory for spectators attending the three high school commencement ceremonies.

It was an option before Myrtle Beach tipped it.

An outbreak of COVID-19 cases in neighboring Preston County has been traced back to the one vacation trip to a South Carolina spot favored by West Virginians.

And a group of 2020 graduates from Morgantown High and University had traveled there recently.

Situation normal …

In the meantime, there’s not just the matter of reacclimating.

Teachers putting forth in the pandemic, especially those in charge of the younger grades, have to reconfigure, as well.

“Airplane arms,” for social distancing, for example.

“Scrubbing” hands, as opposed to simply “washing” them, as another.

New vocabularies.

New measures.

But forget the “new” normal, Talerico said.

She has another term for pandemic life.

Pandemic life, especially, as pertaining to school.

“It’s the ‘abnormal’ normal.”

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