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Preston schools working on new plan, new calendar for back to school

KINGWOOD — A week ago Preston County Schools had a locally developed re-entry plan for the return to school. Now it has a new start and end dates for the school year and a set of guidelines from the state that are sure to change.

In case there’s any doubt of that, there’s a note at the top of the table of contents of the West Virginia Schools Re-entry Toolkit.

It says: “The guidance in this document is subject to change as additional information about the spread and prevention of COVID-19 is known. New directives from Governor Jim Justice and public health officials may be forthcoming and may evolve prior to the start of the school year or during the school year.”

The state addresses every aspect of school, from lunches to transportation and face coverings, which are required for all students third grade and older and employees.

Preston had planned to bring students back in late August, but last week the governor said school cannot stop before Sept. 8 and must end by June 1.

Preston School Superintendent Steve Wotring told the Preston County Board of Education Monday he has submitted a new calendar for state approval. The state is requiring employees to work 200 days, but the 180-day requirement for students will be “almost impossible” in the time period laid out by Justice, Wotring said.

But Wotring suspects the re-entry will end up being all virtual.

“It is my understanding that [Justice] said today that if conditions are the same in the fall as they are today, schools will not be reopened,” Wotring said. “There’s a lot of unknowns.”

Given that, he chose not to provide a re-entry plan Monday until the state provides clearer guidelines.

For example, he noted, the state school board’s recommendations on mask wearing aren’t the same as those of the health department.

“We are playing with people’s lives here. I cannot underscore that enough,” Wotring said. “We’ve got 4,400 kids, 700 staff members, and people are dying. And they’re saying I’ve got to come up with a plan to get everybody back. I’m darned if I do; I’m darned if I don’t.”

The proposed revised calendar includes several remote learning days. Those are for students participating in the regular learning plan. Every student also has the option of entirely virtual learning, which will be provided by the county.

Applications for virtual learning in Preston County Schools are being accepted through Friday. More information is on the schools’ web page and Facebook page. So far, 64 students have applied for virtual learning, Wotring said.

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