The only school buses you’ll see on the road in Monongalia County this morning will be the select ones driving to various locations in order to become WiFi stations on four wheels.
Starting today, Mon Schools is going remote for the rest of year due to the pandemic, Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said.
He’s hopeful face-to-face learning can resume Jan. 4 after the holidays.
It was almost reverse Zen, he said Tuesday afternoon, and then later at a Board of Education meeting.
That’s because, he said, it was a decision with no real choice.
The superintendent over the weekend and into Tuesday watched the county’s fortunes make like a coronavirus chameleon.
It played that way on the county alert map maintained by the state Department of Education.
Mon was yellow when the map updated Saturday.
Three days later, the county was orange, a hue which requires remote learning.
Campbell wasn’t confident for a quick shift back to yellow, or, even better, green, given the transmission rate in Mon.
With COVID-19 roiling across the state and the county, the superintendent said Tuesday that it just made sense to pull back for the rest of the year to see what happens — while those positive cases continue to mount in the Mountain State.
Especially with Christmas drawing near, he said, and the family gatherings heralded by that holiday.
Parents and other caregivers would have time to plan for the rest of the year, opposed to going week by week, he said.
So would students, the superintendent said.
Likewise for teachers and other employees, he added, who might be in that vulnerable age range for the coronavirus.
The irony, he reminded BOE members, was that the school district had made the right decisions in September to ensure student safety.
Ample supplies of personal protective equipment were laid in, and a specially trained coronavirus disinfecting crew was formed and placed on call, to swoop into any buildings where positive cases may occur.
Since the first day of school Sept. 8, a total of 36 students have come down with COVID-19, along with the 27 employees.
That’s miniscule, compared to elsewhere in the country, the superintendent told the board.
It’s also an issue, he said, because every single one of those 63 cases has a multiplying factor.
Because the district works with the county health department on a vigorous contact tracing program, that means quarantines of others who may have come in contact with COVID-19.
In Mon County Schools on Tuesday, that meant 50 people absent from their jobs — teachers, service workers isolating at home — with no substitutes to fill their positions.
“We literally don’t have the substitutes,” Campbell told The Dominion Post after the announcement.
It’s now a matter, the superintendent said, of not having enough people in the building to ensure adequate delivery of lesson plans.
It’s also a safety issue, he said.
Motivation is the biggest issue of all, Campbell said.
How does a teacher keep a student engaged while staying engaged himself?
How can parents and other caregivers, already stressed and strapped because of the pandemic, stay motivated when it comes to helping with homework?
How about connectivity, or the lack thereof, and those WiFi buses?
BOE member Ron Lytle said he’s heard from parents who praise the remote-learning delivery by teachers of their children.
He’s also heard from others offering less-than-stellar marks to the people educating their kids from a distance.
Deputy Schools Superintendent Donna Talerico said a questionnaire is going out asking for thoughts on the above and more.
Fellow board member Mike Kelly said he appreciates that teachers are working hard and that teachers are stressed because they care.
He said to remember that students are the ones working under the most pressure — since they have the most to gain or lose, while the pandemic continues to have its way.
Moms and dads, too, he said.
The coronavirus, Kelly said, has saddled everyone with unprecedented
He likened current conditions to the equivalent of a star basketball player being asked to do a slam dunk with an additional 5-pound weight lashed around his waist.