KINGWOOD — Preston County Schools unveiled what it hopes is the final school calendar this week.
An earlier back-to-school plan was discarded after Gov. Jim Justice set Sept. 8 as the start day for all schools and said the school year must end by June 1, 2021.
“Some organization has decided to send me 550 emails — it’s all a form letter — saying please don’t open the schools until it’s ‘safe,’” Superintendent Steve Wotring said Monday. “I’ve replied to every single one of them, by name, and said, ‘You are talking to the wrong man. I have no power to say that can happen. I cannot close schools; I cannot start remotely. Only the governor can order that.’
“So we have to have a plan to go back to school, unless the governor changes that,” he said.
The calendar approved by the State Department of Education calls for staff to return to school Aug. 17. The three-week period leading up to the return of students is “a gift,” Wotring said.
“Because in the situation in which we find ourselves, we’re going to need more time than ever to prepare for what we’re facing, and to prepare for the possibility in case we go back out again.”
The first two weeks, teachers will have time to work in classrooms and do professional development. From Aug. 31 on, teachers will be in their home schools to prepare.
That’s compared to the usual one day to prepare, Wotring said.
Students will return on a staggered schedule, beginning Sept. 8, when only fourth, eighth and 12th graders will report. On Sept. 9, only third, seventh and 11th grades will report. On Sept. 10, only second, sixth and 10th graders will go to school. On Sept. 11, first, fifth and ninth graders will go.
Parents of pre-k and kindergarten students will be scheduled for individual appointments that week.
All students will attend school beginning Sept. 14.
The calendar includes 10 remote learning days. Those are days students who usually come to the school will stay home and work. Many of the days coincide with faculty senate days.
These are different from virtual school. Students enrolled in virtual school work entirely at home and do not come to school. Virtual school students follow a curriculum provided by the county. Parents of virtual school students must oversee the instruction, just as they would if home schooling.
The last day for students will be May 27 and for teachers June 1.
The state is requiring 180 instruction days.
“Technically we will have 175 days as opposed to the 180, but because we’re doing remote learning we have extended time,” Wotring explained. That takes the county to 180 days in the state’s eyes.
Preston has scheduled remote learning days for Nov. 23-25 of Thanksgiving week, as well as Sept. 25, Oct. 12, Nov. 2, Dec. 23, Feb. 15, March 8 and April 1.
The last day before remote learning days, students will be provided with breakfast and lunch for those days to take home.
Preston Schools’ explanation of types of schooling:
Remote learning days — Students will not be present in the school building. All required information will be previously downloaded to students’ 1:1 device while they are at school. Internet access is not required to use information downloaded onto the devices.
Students will complete all assignments from home. Staff will engage in professional development, staff meetings and communication with students and parents.
These are either scheduled or the result of brief temporary school closings or student absences. This would also apply if schools are closed for an extended period of time.
In the instance of a government-ordered closure, teachers will communicate directly with students and families to ensure access to all instructional information.
Snow days — All snow days become remote learning days.
Virtual school — Preston County Schools provides the opportunity for students to participate in 100% virtual education. Students do not attend school and all curriculum is delivered via a platform developed by the district. The county will provide a 1:1 device.
Students will spend an estimated three to four hours per day at their computers, watching instructional videos and other materials.
Parents will have to do some teaching. For example, you can’t assign reading to a child who hasn’t learned to read yet.
An application must be completed and submitted to qualify. (The deadline has passed, but students can apply to be on the waiting list.)
Students are required to have internet access for virtual learning.