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Families equally divided on school in fall

MORGANTOWN — Monongalia County Board of Education members found out Tuesday night that pandemic math can be pretty absolute.

That is, it would appear that just as many families that responded to a back-to-school survey put out by the district last week favor five-day, face-to-face learning as they do a distance-learning option for the coming year.

Of the families responding to the survey, some 2,488 families said yes to sending their children to school come Sept. 8, while 2,400 indicated they would prefer distance-learning, in the face of the pandemic.

The Mon Schools survey closed late Monday.

Donna Talerico, the district’s assistant superintendent of schools, gave the preliminary rundown during the BOE meeting.

Another 1,400 families said a blended-learning option – two days in school, followed by five days of remote learning – would be the best of both worlds in the face of the pandemic, Talerico said.

And more than 450 others said they would want to take advantage of the “WV Virtual” portal – which is offered through the state Department of Education, and not Mon Schools.

While the numbers are still being tabulated, Talerico told BOE members the district will have three plans detailing the first three options to Charleston by Friday, as per the directive of Gov. Jim Justice, who wants re-entry plans from the state’s 55 counties on his desk that day.

After that, Talerico said, district officials and board members will again go over the numbers and make a recommendation.

And after that, they’ll ask families to commit to one of the first three options: In-school, total distance learning or the hybrid model.

The district doesn’t have the resources right now to combine the delivery systems simultaneously, she said.

“We need to have that commitment so families can start planning,” she said.

With that, the board Tuesday night start planning for a special session on Sept. 1, the day the governor said he would make his final call as to whether students will report to their actual classrooms or go totally remote – as was the case last March when he shuttered schools due to the pandemic.

One thing neither the board nor the district won’t plan on, both entities said, is to take action, either way, concerning the Mohigan mascot of Morgantown High School.

The Native American imagery used by the school has been in the glare of both praise and protest over the past several days.

One group led by current students wants such imagery done away with, saying it is insulting to indigenous culture.

Another group, comprised mostly of alumni, say exactly the opposite. The symbols employed by the school’s marching brand and in its branding, they said, is honoring and building up the culture.

BOE President Nancy Walker read out loud more than 20 letters from the latter, since the meeting was closed to the public because of COVID-19 concerns.

Many of the letter-writers accused the district and board members of having already decided to eliminate the imagery. However, Eddie Campbell Jr., Mon’s superintendent of schools, said no such action has ever been considered – on a board agenda, or otherwise.

Campbell said while he appreciates the passion people are showing for their school, “it is not the intention” of the district or the board to do away with mascot.

The priority, he said, is educating Mon’s students in the shadow of COVID-19.

“I hope every feels their voices have been heard,” Walker said.