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Hancock, Brooke school boards call special meetings to discuss return

The school boards of Hancock and Brooke counties have both called special meetings for today to discuss plans for a return to schools following the state Board of Education’s order that all county school districts return to at least two days of in-person instruction.

The Hancock board is set to meet at 10 a.m. at its New Cumberland office located in the John D. Rockefeller Career Center. Because attendance is limited to 10 people, community members are encouraged to participate by phone by calling (304) 553-7794 and enter 848 799 204# as the meeting identification number.

The Brooke board will meet at 5 p.m. by teleconference. The public may participate by calling (339) 209-5581.

The Brooke board had agreed on Monday to continue virtual instruction for all students through January.

But the state Board of Education on Wednesday ordered that all county school districts offer at least two days of in-person for pupils in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth by Tuesday.

In-person instruction for grades 9-12 will occur unless a county’s number was at level red for active COVID-19 cases.

State Board President Mike Hall said, “The purpose of this recommendation is not to allow counties to back away from the January 19 return date announced by the governor, but instead to strengthen the education support structure for our students keeping our eye on getting students back in the building as soon as possible. The academic and extended needs of our students have suffered too much and our schools are the best way to get them back on track.”

He and other state school officials have cited concerns about students struggling without the more direct contact with teachers, lack of Internet access for students in some areas and a smaller number of reported COVID-19 cases among youth.

Prior to Monday, Brooke County school officials had announced plans in line with the state board’s ruling on Wednesday.

The Hancock County board, which also met Monday, had not approved a return plan. Board President Dan Kaser said the panel must follow guidelines set by the state.

But leaders of the American Federation of Teachers- West Virginia said they will seek an injunction against the state board and local boards supporting its plans.

They maintain schools shouldn’t re-open until all school staff have an opportunity to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

On its website, the educators association also offered to file legal motions supporting local school boards’ “right to govern their school system and make locally-based decisions to protect students, staff and their community.”

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

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