Education, Latest News

School begins in Preston County

KINGWOOD — The first day of school in Preston County went well, Superintendent Steve Wotring said Tuesday.

Preston students are returning to school on a staggered schedule. On Tuesday, only fourth, eighth and 12th graders reported. Today only third, seventh and 11th graders will report. On Thursday, only second, sixth and 10th graders will attend school. On Friday, first, fifth and ninth graders will go.

Parents of pre-K and kindergarten students will be scheduled for individual appointments this week.

All students will attend school beginning Sept. 14. They will attend in person Monday through Thursday and do remote schooling on Fridays.

That schedule was cause for some nerves, Wotring said, but it went smoothly.

“I talked to our transportation director, and he said the most impressive thing to him is that our bus drivers really knew our kids and they knew which ones to pick up and they had all adjusted their bus routes appropriately, and we got here without a hitch this morning.”

There is a hitch for fifth and ninth graders, and some Kingwood Elementary fourth graders, because of a back order on the laptops to be issued to them. All virtual students will have a device, Wotring said.

He can’t be sure when the devices will arrive.

Of classes and COVID

Schools are requiring face coverings for students and staff, social distancing and undergoing more frequent cleanings as precautions against the coronavirus.

Preston Health Department Director V.J. Davis said Tuesday Preston has 120 confirmed cases, 20 probable cases, four deaths, 134 recovered and two active cases. “We like that low number of active cases,” he said.

“When school starts, that is going to be the single largest group of people in any one building in Preston County, and we’re going to be doing that all over Preston County, all over the state,” Davis said. “It has the recipe for a lot of spread when you put that many people in one spot.”

Preston County Schools has been working with the health department, Davis noted. He said every school has an isolation room for a student who may start feeling ill, and each school has a school nurse.

“We just kind of encourage everyone — parents, students, teachers, bus drivers, the general public, faculty, everyone — to be very cautious with school starting up,” Davis told the Preston County Commission. “We encourage parents to be very vigilant with their screening before they leave home, make sure they’re not sending a child who has symptoms to school. That would be a scenario that could be very dangerous.”

How can you differentiate between the symptoms of seasonal allergies and ear infections and COVID-19, Commission President Samantha Stone asked Davis?
“I’m concerned about bulk testing of students who may just have a runny nose,” Stone said.

“In a lot of cases, really the only thing you have to go by is knowing yourself and knowing that you always have seasonal allergies ,,, ” Davis said. “In the school setting I would imagine they’re probably going to be overly cautious.”

Are schools ready for large numbers of possible cases? “That’s something we’re going to have to wait and see,” Davis said.

“The plan in place is as best as it can be, and hopefully we don’t have to test it,” he concluded.