Gov. to announce plan on Sept. 1
So goes back-to-school and the quandary of COVID-19:
Kids need to be in the classroom, for face-to-face instruction, from professional teachers, who know them and want them to succeed.
Everyone should go, so long as it’s safe. Just wear the mask, and socially distance. And wash your hands.
That’s the problem. It’s not safe for anyone. How are you realistically going to get kids — especially in the younger grades — to wear their masks all the time and to maintain that social distance?
And what about the social and medical considerations of a child with special needs? What about older teachers and staffers vulnerable to the coronavirus?
Of course, I want my child to succeed. Of course, I don’t want to put him an environment where there’s even a hint of pandemic danger.
Remote-learning is great, but I don’t always have the book-learning background to help with homework. I’m not a teacher, and I didn’t sign up for homeschool. And I can’t keep missing work to stay home.
The above, and more, have been collectively on the minds of Monongalia County parents since last March 13, when Gov. Jim Justice made the decision to shutter schools with COVID-19 looming then just beyond the borders of the Mountain State.
Because they had to, districts and their teachers quickly converted to total remote delivery of lesson plans — a process State Schools Superintendent Clayton Burch said earlier this week was akin to, “Building the airplane, while you’re flying it.”
The parents have spoken
Monongalia County Schools let fly last week with a survey asking local parents to consider possible scenarios come Sept. 8, the date designated by the governor as the first day of school, in whatever form that will take, for all 55 counties.
Parents were asked to list their preference for four such scenarios.
There’s in-school learning, five days week — or, total distance learning from home, which is how the state finished the school year this past spring.
There’s a “blended” option, which would mean two days of in-school instruction followed by five days of remote learning.
Parents were also asked for their thoughts on a fourth option, even though that one would be delivered exclusively through the state Department of Education and not Mon County Schools.
Known as WV Virtual Learning, it’s a self-paced model with a “facilitator” from Charleston helping marshal the online, self-paced proceedings, from lesson plans to homework.
With the numbers in from the Mon survey, a total of 2,403 parents who responded favor full-time distance learning, with county teachers on the other end of the monitor.
Full-time, in-school learning was second, with 2,228 saying yes to it.
A total of 1,644 respondents prefer the hybrid model, with its mix of face-to-face, and remote learning — and 464 said they’d rather bypass Mon Schools altogether, with WV Virtual.
Diverse opinions, difficult decision
Donna Talerico, Mon’s assistant superintendent of schools, didn’t delve into the numbers Thursday, only to say that they are reflective of the people who live here and send their children to school here.
“We’ve got a diverse county,” she said. “That means a lot of diverse interests.”
Mon’s diversity will be in a three-pack on Justice’s desk in Charleston today.
The governor circled today’s date as his deadline for re-entry plans from all 55 counties, and Mon sent him a trio, detailing the in-school, remote- and blended learning options.
“We’re going to wait and see what the governor is thinking,” Talerico said.
“Then, in coming days, we’ll make a recommendation.”
That overture will be made formally by Mon Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr., to the Board of Education, which will say yay or nay.
Right now, Talerico said, the district doesn’t have the resources to deliver two platforms of learning at the same time — that is, total-learning for your child, and hybrid-learning for the neighbor kid he hangs out with at the bus stop.
And there’s also the possibility, as the district and the BOE have both said, that the governor could repeat his call from spring: To again close schools and go with all-remote learning, depending upon what turns the coronavirus takes.
Sept. 1 is his imposed deadline for making that call.
Meanwhile, with the numbers in, Mon Schools is beginning deliberations of its own, for when the morning bell rings 25 days from now.
The discussions, said Nancy Walker, the longtime BOE incumbent and current president, will hardly be breezy.
She knows all about Mon’s diversity of demographics, she said, especially those households where grandparents may be the main caregiver— thus giving whole new considerations to COVID-19.
“I can’t tell someone what the ‘right’ answer is for their family.”