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A fourth Mason Dixon student tests positive

A fourth student at Mason Dixon Elementary School has tested positive for the coronavirus, after attending the same birthday party as three classmates who also came home with COVID.

“It’s a good thing we did what we did,” Monongalia Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said.

“Because this could have really gotten out of hand.”

He’s talking about the district’s decision to put the school on total remote learning this week and next, after the earlier three cases.

Those alone counted for 58 additional quarantines at the tiny school on the western end of the county in Blacksville, he said, and he and other school officials were worried about a genuine outbreak.

“It’s looking like that’s what could have happened,” the superintendent said.

In the meantime, COVID-19 keeps happening across the district.

An employee at Skyview Elementary also reported a positive diagnosis Wednesday, meaning three other staffers at the school on River Road will have to go into isolation for the next 14 days as a precaution.

Which set Sam Brunett to thinking about another action initiated by the district during a Board of Education meeting the night before.

Citing a decline in infection rates and the fact that county teachers and other employees are now receiving vaccines for the virus, Campbell said he wanted to see students back in their classrooms five days a week by March 1.

After conferring with county health officials and every public school principal in the county, the superintendent was ready to front the measure to the board – which balked.

At least on the earlier proposed date.

After several minutes of discussion, BOE members voted 3-2 for full in-person learning of students in pre-kindergarten through senior year of high school, to commence March 8.

That’s with an easing in, of sorts, that would put elementary students in their class seats March 1, to be followed by the county’s middle-schoolers March 4.

High school students would then hit their hallways March 8.

Including the hallways of Morgantown High School, where Brunett teaches art.

Brunett, who is also president of the county’s chapter of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, said Wednesday he doesn’t think the district is coloring inside the lines with this one.

District officials and board members earlier wanted to keep students remote through Feb. 12, given the unpredictability of the pandemic, and Brunett was in agreement.

The ongoing situation at Mason Dixon Elementary gives evidence that everyone had good instincts, he said.

“Now, it’s 180 degrees,” he said.

“It’s like, ‘Where did this come from?’ Less than a month ago, they were resolute about staying remote.”

Heather DeLuca-Nestor, who is president of Mon’s chapter of the West Virginia Education Association agreed.

Going back to school isn’t the issue, said DeLuca-Nestor, who teaches science at South Middle.

But going back safely is, she said.

Her union, “wasn’t made aware” of any vote to take place Tuesday night, she said, echoing Brunett.

For now, she said, safety measures can only best be maintained under the county’s current hybrid-blended learning model.

Plus, she said, not every teacher or school employee has been fully inoculated against COVID-19, with timelines not fully firmed, as distribution is still a question mark.

Campbell said the county is following aggressive pandemic protocols – citing Mason Dixon Elementary as example.