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3 new COVID cases in schools

Members of Monongalia County’s Board of Education were reminded of something they already knew Tuesday night: That pandemic math doesn’t grade on curve.

Particularly when to comes to the quarantining, which usually ensues any time a student, teacher or other staffer presents with a positive diagnosis.

Last fall, the entire varsity football team of Clay-Battelle High School (coaches and parents included) had to go into self-isolation for a time – after an outside person working with players on strength and conditioning exercises came down with COVID-19.

Last Friday, a Clay-Battelle student reported to school that morning, and tested positive with the coronavirus that evening.

Which meant 30 more classmates had to quarantine, also – including ones flagged by contact tracing, plus their brothers and sisters at home.

Add the handful of others at the school in Blacksville who opted to self-isolate as a precaution, even though they weren’t officially ordered to do so.

Positive cases at Morgantown High School and Cheat Lake – one apiece – were also reported Tuesday, though the district didn’t specify that afternoon if the newly diagnosed are teachers or students.

Mon Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said the district is stringently following all pandemic protocols during the return to class – a return forced here and in the state’s 54 other public districts by the executive order of Gov. Jim Justice.

For example, by the time of Tuesday’s BOE meeting, all three schools had already undergone extensive once-overs by the district’s specially designated COVID19 cleaning crew, an officially trained unit that’s even been known to wipe down the ink pens on a teacher’s desk.

The district, the superintendent said, is going back to a 14-day quarantine at the urging of Dr. Lee B. Smith, Mon’s health officer.

“We’re gonna implement that right away,” he said.

Implementing things right away – like it or not – has been the order of business for the district during the first month of 2021.

Neither Campbell nor Smith wanted the county’s schools in session so soon after the holidays.

Teacher unions were not happy about it, either.

Both the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia and the West Virginia Education filed for injunctions in Kanawha County Circuit requesting temporary stays on Justice’s order until all teachers and school employees in Kanawha and Mon are vaccinated.

Judge Carrie Webster denied the requests, however, saying action would leave the state Board of Education hamstrung in its efforts to offer the best learning experience for West Virginia’s most vulnerable students.

As earlier defined by Justice and state Schools Superintendent Clayton Burch, that segment includes younger students grappling with the agreed-upon inadequacies of remote learning – plus others who may in the darker circumstances, even, of abusive households.

Reduced student rolls under the return-to-school model might deliver positives the county wants to hear though, Deputy Superintendent Donna Talerico said.

At Morgantown High on Tuesday, 290 students were in classrooms and hallways – in a building designed for 1,900.

MHS is where those already inoculated teachers and staffers in the 50-year age are scheduled Friday for their second dose of the vaccine.

Don’t get too confident, though, board member Sara Anderson said. Not with COVID-19, and its mutating, virulent ways.

“I guess I would say, let’s be cognizant of the new strains.”