Brooke County Schools prep for new year

WELLSBURG — While current plans call for Brooke County students to return to classrooms when the new school year begins Aug. 20, school officials are preparing for other scenarios, pending the status of the pandemic.

The West Virginia Department of Education has advised that unless Gov. Jim Justice orders schools to close and to offer remote instruction to students, each district may adopt the approach that best suits their needs.

That can include five full days of in-person instruction or various combinations of instruction to students in classrooms or their homes, provided schools that remain open for any length of time are regularly cleaned and sanitized.

Brooke County Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Crook said a majority of 4,786 parents surveyed through the district’s Remind app preferred their children report to school five days a week.

Crook said those surveyed also were given the options of their children receiving a mix of remote instruction with two or four days of classroom instruction.

But he said depending on the pandemic’s course in two months and actions by state officials, that could change.

“We’re planning for everything. We’re planning for remote and planning for in-person,” said Crook, who recently formed a re-entry task force to develop such plans.

Headed by Crook and Stephanie Blundon, the district’s director of student services, the group is comprised of administrators, teachers,health care professionals and other community members charged with considering the pandemic’s impact on aspects ranging from school lunches to extracurricular activities.

Crook said unless ordered otherwise, staff and students will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks.

He said masks and gaiters, masks that resemble turtlenecks that extend over the wearer’s lower face; are being ordered for students as well as plastic guards for the front desks at the schools’ main offices, disinfectant and hand sanitizer.

Crook said the materials will be purchased with $607,000 in state funds awarded to the school district for such expenses as well as costs related to remote learning.

The Brooke County school board approved use of the funds at a special meeting Monday. It was the first time since March that the board gathered together in one room.

Since the governor’s order to shelter in place and in the months since, the board has met by teleconference with the public provided a phone number through which they could participate.

But to allow greater public access and safe distancing, Monday’s meeting was held in the Brooke High School auditorium. Plans call for the next meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. July 6, to be held there also.

Due to a scheduling conflict, the meeting will be held a week earlier than usual.

In other business before the board on Monday and at last week’s regular meeting:

¯ The board approved a one-year contract for Comcast to provide Internet service to the former Wellsburg Middle School, which will serve as home to the Alternative Learning Center in the fall. The cost will be $300 per month.

¯The board altered the terms of contracts with the Brooke County Commission for sheriff’s deputies serving as school resource officers from three years to one.

Crook said the move was made because the board can’t enter into an agreement longer than a year. He said no change was made to the number of officers at any school or the amount paid for them through the county’s five-year levy.

¯The board agreed to add pre-kindergarten classrooms to the Success for All reading program at a cost of $18,000 using state and federal funds.

In related business, it agreed to alter instructional time for pre-kindergarten to four days a week, Monday through Thursday, with 6.25 hours each day.

Pre-kindergarten orientation has been scheduled for Aug. 27, while Aug. 31 will be the first full day for those pupils.

Orientations for kindergarteners will be held Aug. 25 and 26, with Aug. 27 the first full day for them.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)


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