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West Virginia Board of Education: Counties can’t stay fully remote after Tuesday

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Board of Education unanimously passed a motion Wednesday that would prevent county school systems from opting for remote learning after Tuesday and adopted in-person instructions for West Virginia schools.

Virtual learning through the statewide virtual option, West Virginia virtual platform, or local county online-only programs will remain, however, as according to state superintendent Clayton Burch those programs suit the needs of actually teaching the students the information away from the school as the platform was originally designed for students in AP courses or credit recovery program.

Burch said for students in West Virginia Virtual school or the counties’ online programs, the student can complete the assignment on their own time and engage with a live teacher if they need any help on a computer.

However, some students do not have access to assignments due to not having a computer or Wi-Fi capabilities to get in touch with a teacher.

Burch said students need to interact with classmates and teachers, even if only done in virtual settings.

“When we had to move to remote settings, many times children are not being engaged. We know that there’s going to be folks that say, ‘our remote platform is working well.’ We’re not the same as the whole state. We just know that the data is not matching up, children are getting left off the grid. I’ve always been a voice and will continue to be a voice for children. I respect what our teachers are doing. I respect the local decisions that our boards are making,” Burch said.

“Remote learning cannot be in the same sentence as education. We can’t say remote learning and handing a packet of papers to a child on Monday is any form of education and I think during the governor’s executive order under a health emergency, we allow and talk about remote learning and how to possibly just fill that gap during an emergency. But now, I’m really concerned about where we’re headed if we continue to talk about remote, but I do think there’s some robust things happening in the virtual framework.”

The state board also adopted new in-person instruction for West Virginia schools.

Starting on Tuesday, PreK-8 schools will attend in-person instruction regardless of their county’s color on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources County Alert System map.

Counties do not have the option to implement full countywide remote learning for PreK-8 students. However, a local county board of education retains the authority to work with local health officials and to close individual classrooms or schools when a specific health need related to that classroom or school is identified.

Such closures shall be of limited duration and related to the specific health need of the school or classroom. Teachers and staff will continue to provide essential student support services including meals, student engagement, all special education services, and support to at-risk students.

Counties are encouraged to resume in-person instruction four or five days per week on Jan 19.

Counties have the option to utilize blended instruction models beginning at the same date and blended models must provide each student with in-person instruction at least two days per week.

Students in high school will attend school in-person unless their county is red on the DHHR County Alert System map. In-person instruction may consist of blended learning models for students grades 9-12.

Consistent with the practice that has been in place since the start of the 2020-2021 school year, high schools will move to remote learning the day after the county turns red on the DHHR County Alert System map.

High schools may stay in remote learning until the following Monday.

If the county is not red on the DHHR daily map on Saturday, in-person instruction will resume on the following Monday.

A county superintendent may determine and direct that a county will resume in-person learning without waiting until the following Monday. However, if the county is still in red status on Saturday or Sunday, remote learning will continue for another week unless the county superintendent directs the resumption of in-person instruction earlier.

Starting on every Monday, the state superintendent will provide the WVBE with an update regarding each county’s status regarding the provision of in-person instruction via email

The state superintendent, WVDE staff, and all county-level education leaders are directed to continue to provide educational information about the benefit and safety of the COVID vaccination to teachers, education staff, and community members and residents throughout the state.

(Bennett can be reached at tbennett@newsandsentinel.com)

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