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Schools to return to 5-day, in-person instruction

Hall

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Department of Education decided, Tuesday, that students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade will return to in-person instruction five days a week and those in ninth through 12th grades will attend five days a week in person for counties that are not red.

During a press conference Friday, Gov. Jim Justice said he wanted a return to in-person learning and asked the state school board to mandate that all counties send students in grades K-8 back to school full time, stating that COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have been dropping to the lowest point since November in the state due to vaccination efforts.

Following the state board’s actions, students in pre-K through eighth grade will attend in-person learning beginning March 3 regardless of the county’s color on the Department of Health Resources County Alert System map.

“The number one priority is having school safe. We understand all the concerns related to going back to school. We know teachers and school staff are working hard and are concerned about safety measures. But so are we, anybody thinks we are not concerned about the safety of our young people, they are wrong,” state BOE President Miller L. Hall said. “We are struggling as a country, we’re struggling, but we will make it through. We have got to be a team and I think in some ways we are fragmented. When you are fragmented, you don’t function well.”

Under the ruling, counties do not have the option to implement full countywide remote learning for Pre-K-8 students. The local county board of education still 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 that are utilizing classroom teachers to teach both in-person students and full-time students participating in locally designed virtual programs may submit a waiver request to the state superintendent to request the ability to conduct in-person instruction, four days per week to allow sufficient time to support full-time virtual students.

High schools will attend school in-person unless the county is red on the DHHR County Alert System Map but will go from in-person to remote learning the day after the county turns red on the map.

Parents will continue to have the ability to choose a virtual learning option for their children no matter the grade level.

The state board’s next meeting will be in Charleston on March 10.

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

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