Monongalia County’s Board of Education members Tuesday night tentatively voted to send students back to school on a blended-learning schedule beginning Thursday – but “tentative” is the watchword.
That’s because the vote wasn’t unanimous (4-1) and none of the board members necessarily seemed to care for the compromise.
And Charleston still hasn’t made it officially official.
Last week, Gov. Jim Justice made a call to put the state’s elementary and middle-school students back in their classrooms 5 days a week, regardless of COVID-19 infection rates in their respective counties.
That’s because, the governor said, those students are floundering, given the inadequacies of remote learning.
There’s also the issue of vulnerable students in troubled households, he and state Schools Superintendent Clayton Burch said.
And even though the pandemic is roiling across West Virginia, those students, the governor and the superintendent said, aren’t traditional carriers of the coronavirus.
Prior to the state’s decision, but also last week, Mon’s board met in regular session and voted – unanimously – to keep the county on remote learning through Feb. 12.
The pandemic is too unpredictable in Morgantown across Mon, they said.
And with this week’s return of WVU students, they said, concerns over community spread would be amplified, with more spikes in positive cases likely.
The state Board of Education, though, overruled it all, saying younger students critically needed to literally be in school – facemask-to-facemask with their teachers – for the earlier-mentioned reasons.
Since then, Justice and the state board amended the call for counties to make some measure of in-person learning, even in the alternating blended format.
In the meantime, the pandemic is roiling across north-central West Virginia, and with WVU students now back on campus in Morgantown, concerns over community spread have gotten more amplified.
Not all of Mon’s teachers and staffers have received the vaccine, either.
That’s what Mon Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. mapped out in the form of a waiver request – which was denied by Burch, who said the county could manage with all the pandemic protocols and a reduced student population in buildings.
State board members will vote yes or no today at noon in Charleston.
The board is meeting in emergency session to address those counties that don’t want to go back at all, until the coronavirus lessens its grip.
While Mon’s vote wasn’t unanimous – the frustration among board members Tuesday night was.
Mike Kelly grappled with the idea of what might happen if the local board defied an executive order from the state.
“I think we’re in a rough spot, because I can’t vote and tell people to break the law,” he said.
“I would love to stick with our original plan. I just don’t think we have a choice.”