Education, Latest News, Monongalia County

Students adjusting to life without masks

Call it, preventive expression, Eddie Campbell Jr. said Thursday.

The Monongalia schools superintendent was talking about what the future deployment of facial coverings might be in hallways and classrooms, now that the district has gone with a mask-optional policy.

Wednesday marked the first time in two years that students, teachers and others could enter their buildings sans masks, if that’s what they wanted.

“It went very well,” Campbell said of the day.

While students in the younger grades opted mainly to go without masks, several others in middle school and high school haven’t surrendered their coverings just yet – which is perfectly fine, the superintendent said.

“That’s what this is about,” he said. “It’s about respecting choice. And there are always going to be those who just feel more comfortable and secure wearing a mask to school.”

Campbell and Board of Education members made the call late last month after consulting with Dr. Lee B. Smith, the county’s medical director. That was after consecutive weeks of declining cases in Mon, following an initial spike after the holidays.

The district used last week to coach students and their families on how to address the mask-or-not directive.

“You know how we are around here with teachable moments,” the superintendent said.  

The district, though, will keep its social-distancing and hand-washing protocols in place indefinitely, he said.

Don’t look for masks to completely go away, either.

“I can see teachers and students wearing them during flu season,” Campbell said.

And, like it or not, COVID, even in lessening numbers, is still answering roll in the county.

Last week, with the mask mandate still in place, the district reported 28 positive cases among its students, with four other staffers also testing positive.

Mon and Preston, though, were among 49 of West Virginia’s 55 counties showing green Thursday on the COVID alert map, which is maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

“It’s nice to get some normalcy back,” Campbell said.

Make that, follicle-normalcy, Suncrest Elementary Principal Doug Gaither added.

Gaither is known for his signature goatee, but the younger grades at his school had no way of knowing that until Wednesday.

“I was in the hallway saying good morning when this kindergarten gentleman walked up,” Gaither said.

“He said, ‘Whoa. You’ve got hair on your face.’ Another older student was walking by and she said, ‘Yeah, and it’s a lot whiter now.’ Thanks, kid.”

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