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Mon County students may be back in classrooms on Jan. 21

Monongalia County students might return to their classrooms Jan. 21 for blended instruction, Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said Thursday.

“Might,” is the watch-word, he said.

That’s because it all hinges on how State Schools Superintendent Clayton Burch responds to his waiver request — if he responds at all.

Campbell sent the document directly to Burch on Wednesday, hours after Mon’s Board of Education members carved a plan that would keep the county remote through Feb. 12.

He has yet to hear back from Charleston, he said.

Mon’s call pertains directly to the pandemic: COVID-19 infection rates in the county and across the state are soaring.

At home, Mon’s teachers have yet to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

And WVU students are also returning to Morgantown next week.

Feb. 12, the local board said, would be a good coronavirus cushion for all of the above.

Hours after Mon’s BOE hit upon that date, however, the state BOE said no to this county and every other county contending its Jan. 19 call, for a return to school.

For now, Campbell said, Mon’s plan is a tentative measure — “We have to have something in place if the state tells us no,” he said.

The statewide plan puts elementary students and middle-schoolers literally back in school, regardless of county infection rates.

Both Burch and Gov. Jim Justice have said repeatedly the move would be what’s best for a segment of the student population, perhaps in need of face-to-face learning more than most.

Generally, one-third of state students are failing in core classes, both said.

With infection rates among children minuscule — both say — compared to other pandemic numbers in the Mountain State, returning to school would signal the beginnings of a return to academic normalcy.

In the meantime, the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia said Thursday there’s nothing  normal about putting people in harm’s way at the height of a pandemic.

AFT will soon file an injunction against the state Department of Education and state school board over the mandate to “protect the health and safety of school employees,” the union said in a statement.

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