Education, Latest News, Monongalia County

More federal dollars for W.Va. schools

MORGANTOWN — Federally speaking, the pandemic has deep pockets.

The American Rescue Fund released a final outlay to West Virginia’s school system this past week.

The $254 million will be doled out to the state’s 55 school districts and will be used for programs designed to get and keep students on stable learning paths in the ever-shifting COVID landscape.

State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch said the dollars here have a very specific delivery route.

“We are focused on making sure that students and staff have the supports they need to recover from social and emotional distress caused by the pandemic,” he said during Thursday’s announcement.

Which is just as arduous as it sounds.

In Monongalia County, the district has used its prior monies from the fund to bankroll the Summer Avalanche learning enrichment program, which runs through the end of month.

Other line items will go the continued operation of the district’s in-house COVID disinfecting crew, a specially outfitted, specially trained team (consisting of school employees who are paid extra for their work), who sanitize schools where positive diagnoses occur.

Right now, Burch said, the state plan is to have all state schools set up for in-person learning, five days a week in the fall — so long as there are no sudden upticks in COVID or variant cases.

Burch’s counterpart in Mon County, local superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr., said the local district is waiving the mask requirement for now as it looks to the first day of school Aug. 24.

The district here is also using the federal money, plus dollars from the excess levy for education, to add to already existing programs which bolster emotional health, along with academic health.

“It’s amazing what you can get done when you really have to do it,” Campbell said over the spring, as the district was readying for the return to in-person learning.

“We learned that as a school system, we can flip it around pretty quick,” he said. “The pandemic didn’t give us a choice.”

Now, the district is in full-on preparation for the first day of school.

Michael Ryan, chairman of the district’s department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which was in place before the pandemic, has been holding Zoom meetings this summer around the vacation times of his colleagues — to get ready for all of the above.

He came up in the county working mainly in middle schools and has also earned Counselor of the Year recognition from the state Department of Education.

“You always hear that ‘things will never be the same,’ ” he said.

“Well, they shouldn’t be, because we’re learning new things. We can take good from it and use it.”

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