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Mon County approves blended learning for first nine weeks

Faced with growing  uncertainty and  trepidation over COVD-19, Monongalia County Schools announced Friday it will go with blended learning for the first nine weeks of school this year.

“We’re focusing on a plan that will allow half of our students to attend school in-person every other day, and to attend safely,” Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr., said.

The first day of school across the Mountain State is still set for Sept. 8.

Across Mon County, elementary- and middle-school families whose oldest student’s last name begins with the letters A-through-L will attend one day, Campbell said.

Students from families whose oldest student’s last name begins with M-through-Z will attend the next — with the two groups alternating days of in-person instruction for that stretch of school, which ends Nov. 2.

High school students will follow their standard odd-even schedule, which translates into two consecutive days in school, and two consecutive days working remotely at home.

Taking roll with the coronavirus 

Deputy Superintendent Donna Talerico said she and Campbell made the decision Thursday, after a final round of meetings with health professionals, including Dr. Lee B. Smith, the executive director of the Monongalia County Health Department and the county’s chief health officer.

Smith was the key hub in that meeting of the district’s re-entry plan committee of the whole.

Also consulting were Dr. Chris Edwards, a Mon Health Medical Center physician, and Emily Finamore, a child mental health practitioner in the county.

The meeting was arranged as a trio of documents detailing back-to-school here were on their way to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice in Charleston.

Friday was the deadline for West Virginia’s 55 counties to submit their plans, at the direction of Justice and state School Superintendent Clayton Burch.

Mon, as said, sent three: In-school, all-remote and the blended model were the three options gridded out in the documents.

“It was one more chance to talk about everything concerning the health and well-being of our students,” Talerico said of the meeting.

And the health and well-being of everyone else involved, as the unions had already reminded everyone in the huddle.

Members of state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, along with the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, earlier  charged Justice with what they said was simply not doing enough to keep school buildings, buses and the people who inhabit them, safe during the coronavirus.

Another union, the West Virginia Education Association, also said schools needed to start the year with total remote learning because of the same.

Either way, everyone answers the morning bell in less than a month.

And the homework assignment now, said Nancy Walker, president of Mon’s BOE, is just as simple as it is complicated.

“What we do, anything we do, has to be guided by the science,” she said.

Now, Justice wants a color chart to be the guide of that guide, as it were.

School colors 

With COVID-19 czar Dr. Clay Marsh and officials from the Department of Health and Human Services present, the governor debuted a quartet of hue-inspired benchmarks that will determine whether your child is in his classroom that day, at the kitchen table, in front of the Chromebook.

Green, yellow, orange and red are the representative colors in the guideposts borrowed from the Harvard Global Health Institute Model, which charts pathogen paths, as its name says, across the world.

The state model will base its metrics on a seven-day, rolling average of new cases in each  county per 100,000 people, as a benchmark number.

If your county is green, that means positive cases between zero to 15 positive cases per 100,000 people.

A yellow designation means eight to 15 cases per 100,000, and to show orange means 16 to 24 positive diagnoses have been chronicled.

Twenty-five cases per 100,000 buys a red rating, which automatically means school is closed, until the cases go back down.

In the case of sports, Justice said, red also signals an idle evening — opposed to athletic competition.

Talerico said she hopes the colors won’t clash here, come fall.

“Monongalia County currently is ‘yellow,’ and that’s the second-best designation,” she said.

“As long as we keep our incidences of community transmission down and are designated as either yellow or green, our blended instructional model indicates safety for our students and staff.”