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Art teacher doesn’t like the pandemic picture for the new school year

With COVID uncertainty still shading the proceedings, Monongalia County teachers are reporting to their classrooms today, in preparation of next week’s first day of school.

Sam Brunett said he still isn’t sure what kind of picture COVID will paint across the district is coming weeks.

“No one is,” said Brunett, who teaches art at Morgantown High.

“I don’t know if anyone can be seriously prepared,” he said.

The teacher is talking about the daunting impossibility of trying to predict the curves and swoops of the pandemic in its second wave.

Most of the Mountain State on Wednesday, including Mon County, was awash in orange on the COVID alert map maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

That’s because the Delta variant is roiling.

Eleven counties were in red and just three – Tucker, Pendleton and Calhoun – were showing green, the best, most safe hue on the map.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice pushed for an earlier rollout of booster shots and noted 1,630 new cases – which were notched over a two-day period since Monday.

In Washington, health officials said the Biden administration will begin booster shots the week of Sept. 20 for people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots – and waning immunity over time of the initial doses is why.

In Charleston, Justice said that date isn’t soon enough.

“While I try not to be critical, we are making too many mistakes,” the governor said.

“We need to move, and Sept. 20, to me, just isn’t going to cut it.”

Brunett, like the governor, isn’t just regarding one county on the map.

He is president of the Mon Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, a leading educators’ union in the state. Brunett was also elected its state treasurer.

“A lot of our members are apprehensive,” he said.

Paint in that frame, too, he said.

“My job as a teacher is to keep the kids in my classroom as safe as possible,” he said, “but I think there’re going to be situations where we’ll be moving to a series of pivots.”

Pivots, as in quarantines and full-on turns to remote learning.

When that happened last year, he learned to shoot and craft his lesson plans to video.

That was so his students didn’t miss out on his teaching style.

Teaching art means being interactive. The animated Brunett draws inspiration from the Old Masters to Marvel Comics in his work that netted him with state Art Teacher of the Year recognition in 2018.

He’ll be ready, he said, if he has to again teach from home. So will his colleagues, he said.

“Would it be the best scenario?  No – I’d much rather be in front of my kids. But we at least have those resources now, and they all came from the pandemic.”

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