Blended learning resumes today, but not without some confusion
Monongalia County students who haven’t seen their classrooms since November are going to school under the blended-learning model this morning.
Students in pre-kindergarten through senior year whose last names begin with A-L will report today.
Their classmates whose last names begin with M-Z will answer roll in their buildings Friday.
After that, in-person learning will take up, as per the schedules of their respective schools that the district began with on the first day of school in September.
That much was definite for Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. Wednesday.
What was indefinite for the chief of Mon’s school district, though was how the state Board of Education took up his waiver request.
He and local BOE members were hoping to keep students here remote through Feb. 12 – citing the pandemic and its unpredictability made even more with the return of WVU students to Morgantown this week.
More than half of Mon’s teachers and staffers have yet to receive a vaccine, he said.
Either way, it all went away, though, when the state board overruled Mon and West Virginia’s 54 other counties, when it said in-person must be offered, no matter what.
Both Gov. Jim Justice and state Schools Superintendent Clayton Burch said students across all counties are floundering – and with one-third of them failing core classes, they said, getting them physically back in front of their teachers was critical.
But so is the coronavirus, Mon and many other counties offered.
Campbell reached out to Burch by email, and the state superintendent – in response to the local superintendent – said he was going to recommend the West Virginia board deny the waiver.
Safe as can be?
“While I do understand that an influx of university students to the Morgantown area will occur on January 19, our state health officials have been clear that transmission rates of COVID-19 in schools does not correlate to rates of community spread,” Burch wrote.
“Again, consistent monitoring and enforcement of mitigation strategies in schools is the best defense against transmission,” he continued.
Waiting for an answer
Burch said he was “going to recommend” that the waiver be denied – but Campbell also thought that meant the state board would at least consider the request Wednesday.
That was presumably what it was going to do, Campbell said, when it met at noon for an emergency meeting.
Board members were set to discuss those counties not necessarily ready to go back in the middle of a pandemic.
Mon was brought up, along with neighboring Marion, Harrison and Taylor in north-central West Virginia.
The state BOE did send a release following the meeting with no mention of specific counties. It did, though contain a directive from Miller Hall, state president.
“Our children, families, communities and our state need to have students physically present in schools to benefit from all of the supports the education system offers,” he said.
“Our schools are safe, and it is time that we move to consistent in-person instruction to protect, address and advance the academic, social-emotional and developmental well-being of our children.”
Campbell: “I’m not sure if the board will ever take up our request.”
It already did, by way of Burch, said Christy Day, the communications director for the state Department of Education.
“The state superintendent responded to the Monongalia County request with his intentions to recommend to the WVBE that the request be denied,” she wrote in an email.
“Monongalia County then revised its plan and complied with the state board’s action to offer an in-person learning option for families – making the waiver request moot.”
What is clear, Campbell said, is that Mon’s district is doing “everything it can to keep our kids and our staffers safe.”
He pointed to the district’s specially designated COVID-19 disinfecting crew and said the community’s traditional support of the education levy in the voting booth makes it possible to fund that resource and other measures.
In the meantime, the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia took measures of its own Wednesday.
The union filed for a temporary restraining order to keep Kanawha County Schools on remote until its employees are fully inoculated.