KINGWOOD — The staff for Preston County Schools is developing a plan to return to school this fall, but it must be adaptable.
“We will have a plan, and we will have a good plan, but it will be a moment away from being changed,” Preston School Superintendent Steve Wotring told the board of education at its most recent meeting.
The full central office staff will return to the office July 6. The first order of business will be COVID-19 training, Wotring said.
Screening questions are posted on the main entrance door, and people must ring the bell to be admitted. Drop boxes will be put at each door so people can leave papers without entering the building.
“Our work is really now at a fever pitch about what’s going to happen this fall,” Wotring said.
He has had a couple meetings with the State Department of Education.
“What it’s basically coming down to, it looks like we’ve got to come up with a plan on what we think works for Preston County Schools to get these kids back in school.”
Surveys were sent to parents to get their opinions on how back to school should be managed.
Input will be sought from the Preston County Health Department, and the Preston County Education Association has asked to be included in the process, Wotring said.
“We need to do some very preliminary work in our central office” before adding from those parties, he said.
Principals and teachers will be rotated through the building to share their thoughts. And, “hopefully in July we can start sharing what our plans are going to look like, moving forward as we try to communicate with everybody that we have to.”
Board Member Bruce Huggins asked if the planning looks at things like school offices and foot traffic into schools.
That’s one of the requirements, Wotring said.
“Every area of the school basically has to be marked off for social distancing,” he said, adding it will be similar to the directional arrows and marks to stand on in grocery stores.
Hand sanitizer will be required in every classroom, so the staff has started looking for suppliers.
The state has sent a plan to some superintendents for feedback, Wotring said, but it is embargoed until the State Board of Education sees it with the superintendents’ comments.
“I should be able to bring it to you at your next meeting,” he said, but he and his staff do not want to wait for the state, which is why it is already looking at options.
Among the plans being considered are five days a week in school buildings, dismissing two hours earlier to allow for deep cleaning, and a blend of virtual and classroom education.
Each school must be looked at individually. A school like Rowlesburg with 85 students has more room to social distance than West Preston, with an enrollment of over 1,200.
Staffing is also a consideration, the superintendent said. Retirements and resignations are coming in, some seemingly influenced by COVID-19.
“This is fluid,” Wotring said.
While everyone would like students back in the classroom, even if not five days a week, they have been warned that there could be a resurgence of the coronavirus after Labor Day and Thanksgiving, which could mean closing schools again.
“We’ve got to have the contingencies in place,” Wotring said.
The board will meet in special session at 10 a.m. July 6 to swear in three board members and elect officers for the year.
Three seats were on the June ballot for the board. Incumbent Board Members Pam Feathers and Bruce Huggins will serve four-year terms. Jeanne Dreisbach, the third person elected, will fill the remaining two years of former board member Robert “Mac” McCrum’s term.
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