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Mon Schools continue to deal with COVID while looking ahead to commencement

COVID-19 continued to flit around Monongalia County’s school district over the weekend – with two positive cases necessitating additional quarantines among other students who may have come into contact with the virus.

Six students from Morgantown High are now isolating after a student presented with a positive diagnosis over the weekend, Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said Monday.

The MHS case, in particular, the superintendent noted, illustrates both the successes – and the challenges – of a school district working to keep the coronavirus from spilling into its buildings as a result of community spread.

A seventh student from that case is from Clay-Battelle Middle/High School, Campbell said.

That student was quarantined after coming in contact with the infected student from MHS during classes at the county Technical Education Center, on Mississippi Street.

No other students or staffers were impacted at the center, Campbell reported – “If there’s one good thing coming out of this.”

In the meantime, another unrelated case of a Clay-Battelle student coming down with COVID put eight additional students into quarantine from a classroom, plus five more who shared a bus ride.

Smatterings of cases and fairly substantial numbers of quarantining have abounded across the district, since some 70% of Mon’s students returned to school last week for five-day, in-person learning.

Even so, the superintendent said, those COVID cases, relatively speaking, are quite low.

“We’ve got almost 12,000 students in our county,” he said, “and this weekend we had two positive cases.”

And, he said, no outbreaks within any school building, which he attributes to the district’s in-house contact tracing network and specially trained COVID disinfecting crew, which is on call seven days a week.

“We can respond that much faster,” he said. “We don’t have to wait for an outside agency.”

Commencement and corsages (maybe)

In the meantime, Deputy Superintendent Donna Talerico said, the district is awaiting more responses from the state’s Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Resources over what could happen with prom and commencement.

Graduation exercises are pretty much set for Mon’s three high schools, Talerico said.

As with last year’s seniors, the Class of 2021 will go forth in socially distanced outdoor ceremonies on their respective football fields.

University High’s ceremony is set for May 21, which is a Friday, the deputy superintendent said. That ceremony will be in the evening.

The seniors of MHS will turn their tassels Saturday, May 22, in exercises Saturday morning at Pony Lewis Field.

Clay-Battelle’s Sunday afternoon commencement will be May 23, at its football stadium.

“With clear skies for all three,” she said. “Put that in there.”

That was in reference to the rains that drenched the county’s collective Class of 2020, which received their diplomas on the same evening in outdoor ceremonies at their schools.

While there will at least be a chance of the weather cooperating for commencement, it’s more than likely prom will clouded over by the coronavirus, Talerico said.

“It’s not going to look the same as past years,” she said. “We’re still waiting for guidance from the DHHR.”

The social event known for its $600 dresses and rented bowties was canceled altogether last spring, but that didn’t deter Kerrigan Hawthorne and her friends at Preston High School.

Everybody got done out for a Zoom prom, anyway, said Hawthorne, now a communication studies major at WVU.

You didn’t have the cellphone video proposals or the fast dances (and the slow ones, too) she said, but you still had a moment – even if the delivery system was different.

“It was actually kind of nice,” she said.

Besides, she said, it also guaranteed a ready-made discussion point for the 10-year reunion in 2030.

“It’s been a weird year of adjustment,” she said last May.

“But we got through it. We did it, and we’ll have some stories to tell.”