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Gov. Justice discusses schools, sports

Contributed From left, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch, Gov. Jim Justice and Bernie Dolan, executive director of the Second Schools Activities Commission, at the governor’s coronavirus briefing Wednesday morning.

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice’s briefing, Wednesday, on West Virginia’s continuing response to the COVID-19 pandemic included reports from state school Superintendent Clayton Burch and Director Bernie Dolan of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission concerning the opening of schools and summer athletic exercises.

“We’ve learned a lot during the past year from the pandemic,” Burch said.

One of the things learned was that children were impacted by the loss of face-to-face interaction with their teachers and other students, according to Burch. Summer programs in all counties were beneficial, he said.

Virtual classrooms remain an option, but contact is of prime importance, he said.

“That consistent daily connection to the teachers is the most important thing,” Burch said.

The West Virginia Department of Education later in the afternoon released the guidance for schools.

The three key components are that mitigation measures will continue, contact tracing will continue and schools will encourage vaccination of employees and eligible students 12 and older, Burch said.

Also, a competition will be held where the 12 public or private schools with the most vaccinated students and staff by percentage will win a $50,000 grant, Burch said.

Summer conditioning for sports has gone well and no COVID-19 outbreaks occurred, Dolan said. Practices for all sports except volleyball start next week, he said.

Many of the guidelines issued last year were effective and will be recommendations this year, he said. Vaccinations will allow athletes to avoid quarantining, which was a problem in 2020, according to Dolan.

“Nobody wants to end up missing some of their seasons again,” he said.

(Mancini can be contacted at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com)

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