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Mon County schools take stock as blended-learning rollout unfolds

Monongalia County students may have been absent from their buildings for the past several weeks, but no matter.

COVID-19 was still answering roll in the county.

Which on Friday meant the chronicling of positive cases among students, teachers and other employees, Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said.

Campbell said 34 positive cases have been charted among students this week, again stressing that those diagnoses are coming from the community, and not within the school system, since students are just now returning.

Among teachers and other staffers, he said 11 COVID diagnoses were made.

Three more staffers are currently under quarantine, because of possible exposure, he said.

Students reported to schools under a blended-learning model Thursday after the state Board of Education overruled Mon’s BOE, which had wanted to keep the district on remote through Feb. 12.

That was over concern of the start of spring classes at WVU and the spike in cases that will likely bring, as students return to Morgantown.

The coronavirus vaccine still hasn’t been fully administered to teachers and other employees, they said, which was another reason for not going just yet.

Under the executive order, students in pre-kindergarten through middle school will report, regardless of their county’s infection rate.

Attendance among high schoolers will fall in with the hues of the County Alert Map maintained by the state Department of Health and Resources.

If the county shows orange or red, those students will do remote learning until the color changes.

Students whose last name begins with A-L reported to school Thursday, with M-Z answering role Friday.

It was pretty good week, Campbell said, clouded as it was by the coronavirus.

The superintendent said 3,545 students were in buildings Thursday, followed by 3,157 for Friday – a shortfall he attributed to both the alphabet and the day of the week.

“Friday tends to be your worst attendance day,” he said.

Then again, he said, there are no truly good days in the swirl of a pandemic.

A pandemic that had claimed the lives of 1,856 West Virginians as of Friday, the DHHR reported.

Which is why Mon’s district is going to start announcing those positive cases in what the superintendent said is a more structured manner, beginning Monday.

The number of cases from the previous week will be listed at the district website, Campbell said.

Click on, the superintendent said, and let the links direct you.

In the meantime, Deputy Superintendent of Schools Donna Talerico said she wants everyone to be directed both by courtesy for one’s neighbor – and the life-saving common sense of pandemic protocol.

Mon’s district on Monday resumes the blended-learning schedule it started out with on the first day of classes this past September.

“We’re all gonna have to mask-up and maintain a social distance,” she said.

“We’re all gonna have to wash our hands.”

The Rev. James Saunders said he wished he could wash his hands of the meeting he and his fellow BOE members in neighboring Marion County had with state Schools Superintendent Clayton Burch on Friday morning.

Marion wanted to keep its younger students home for remote-learning – should the DHHR map dip into orange or red – and tried to defy the state order.

In a conference call, Saunders said Burch told the board it could do so at its own peril.

Saunders, a 30-year member of the BOE who has served multiple times as its president, said Marion’s district was threatened with sanctions, including a reallocation of its state aid formula and court injunctions.

“We were definitely strong-armed,” he said. “We weren’t given a choice.”