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Mason Dixon students back; district looks to next week

Mason Dixon Elementary re-opened its school to students Monday morning, after a two-week sequester of remote learning due to the coronavirus.

“It’s good to have our kids back,” Principal Denice Corder said.

“And it’s really good to say there weren’t any more COVID cases. It just shows that everything is working.”

She’s referring to last month’s incident when four students went to a birthday party one weekend and all came home – to test positive for the virus.

Because three grades in the small school were affected the district made to the decision go all-remote for 14 days, which is Monongalia County’s health policy.

Mason Dixon Elementary houses students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. It’s located in Blacksville, a close-knit community in western Mon.

The above dynamic was also a motivator to close, Mon Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr., said then – since it wasn’t immediately known how many Mason Dixon students may have attended that birthday party.

One thing that is known, he said Monday, is that Mon families are ready to send their children back to school five days a week.

That happens next Monday when the PK-5 students return, launching a phase-in that will have the high-schoolers in their classrooms by March 8.

According to a survey that went out to parents last week, nearly 80% of families of the elementary students who responded gave a green light to return.

More than 75% of middle school families voted the same, with nearly 66% of high-schoolers also raising their hands in the affirmative.

The district wasn’t necessarily surprised by the survey results the superintendent said, although the elementary numbers were a bit higher than he thought they would be.

Campbell was also philosophical about the high school results, which weren’t in the same tier as the younger grades.

“There, you have kids who are more independent,” he said.

Like a school bus on a West Virginia road, the call back to school hasn’t been without jostles and bumps.

The vote by Mon’s school board for the return was 3-2, with a lengthy back-and-forth, some of it testy.

Preston County students went back Monday to in-person learning four days a week, also, but not without concerns of some of its school board members.

Critics of the Centers for Disease Control back-to-school guidelines, meanwhile, say the measures have already been out there and don’t offer any beyond the now-standard pandemic protocols of masking, social-distancing and hand hygiene – despite their recent, much-ballyhooed release.

While numbers of positive cases are down, there are still concerns about the new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus making their presence known in the Mountain State.

WVU announced over the weekend that two of its students tested positive with the B.1.1.7, the COVID strain commonly known as the U.K. Variant.

During Gov. Jim Justice’s COVID-19 press briefing Monday, state health officer Dr. Ayne Amjad said to remain coronavirus-vigilant, even with some of the downward trends.

“We want people to wear their masks and take it seriously,” she said.

That’s why Corder saw Monday at Mason Dixon as the opening act for next week.

“We want everyone back,” she said, “but we want them back safely.”

Her school, she said, has already re-zoned the gym for lunch period, in order to better maintain social distancing.

Intermingling, the principal said, will be at a minimum.

“All are classes are in their own bubble.”

Corder said she hopes at least the excitement of fully being back will bubble over.

Next Monday is also the launch of “Read Across America,” and Mason Dixon will do its word-partying with a heavy dose of everyone’s favorite sing-song author, Dr. Seuss.

“You can’t go wrong with Dr. Seuss,” she said.