Education, Latest News

Preston says blended return to school a data-keeping nightmare

KINGWOOD – The return to school on a blended learning schedule is proving to be a data-keeping nightmare, Superintendent Steve Wotring told the Preston County Board of Education on Monday.

Most students are returning to school two days per week. Special education students, high school seniors who are failing, some students in CTE classes and students at other schools who need help catching up are attending more than that, up to four days a week.

Then there are the students whose parents decided to keep their children home for now. Schools have to figure out if these students should be classified as virtual – meaning full-time learning from home – or just staying remote – meaning it’s temporary. The State Board of Education gave parents the stay-at-home option when it ordered kids back into the classroom but didn’t differentiate between virtual and remote in its discussions.

“This blended model has created a lot of work and a lot of unknowns on our behalf,” Wotring said.

It’s important that all students be counted, in part because the state will be issuing EBT cards again this year to help families buy food, he said.

The blended model calls for about half of students to attend classes two days each week, to allow for more social distancing in schools. All students do remote learning on Fridays.

All this is a result of the COVID-19 virus that caused Preston County Schools to go to remote learning last fall.  The Preston board decided in January it would rather remain online until Feb. 8, when it would re-evaluate the status of the virus in the county. The state board overruled that decision, forcing all counties back to the classroom.

The superintendent predicted that if COVID infection rates continue to decline, the state will require all students who are attending in-person classes to do so four days per week.

One of Preston’s reasons for delaying was to allow school employees to receive their COVID vaccines. Wotring said he was notified Monday that 40 additional school workers can get their jabs Friday.

Added to those who got their vaccines previously, that leaves 85 Preston County Schools full-time employees on the list who want the vaccine and the state hasn’t said when it could be available.

After Friday’s vaccinations, nearly 250 full-time school employees will have received it.

“We had a good couple 100 people who said that they don’t want it,” Wotring noted.