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Let’s focus on getting kids an education

We are edging closer to what is supposed to be the beginning of the new school year in West Virginia. During one of his briefings this past week, Gov. Jim Justice confirmed his plan to have public schools return to session on Sept. 8.

He also mentioned the introduction of some sort of color-coded system when it comes to the COVID virus, and that operations of schools would be left up to each county. Beyond that, details were pretty slim.

Locally, there’s been more planning, although, in the long run, none of this is entirely certain as we don’t know how things are going to play out. The most anyone can do is try to prepare for as many circumstances as possible.

The Hancock County Board of Education is scheduled to vote on its plan during its meeting Monday night.

There are four possible options being discussed, although two are the most likely scenarios at this time. The third would be used only under the direction of the state, and the fourth would be entirely up to the families.

The first two options are to either have a traditional school year, with students reporting to class, in-person, five days each week.

The second would be more of a hybridized system, with students reporting in-person two days each week, based off of their last name, and having lessons online the rest of the time.

The idea of having school 100 percent online will be done only under orders from the state, according to the school board. The other possibility is the virtual school, where parents essentially have to opt out of the local school system, and enroll in this other program.

The school board already opted to purchase 3,000 new iPads, and are equipping each school with wireless hubs in the event outside-school classes are needed. That way, students would still be able to receive their lessons, even if they don’t have internet service at home.

The Brooke County school board already has decided on taking a hybrid approach, with students in class two days per week and having remote learning three days.

Both counties also are working to make sure there are plenty of supplies to sanitize their buildings and protect students, teachers and staff as much as possible.

This is in no way an easy situation for anyone. It also could change at a moment’s notice, depending on how things progress in the coming weeks. None of us are in what we would consider our comfort zone these days, and there are going to be adjustments made.

I’ve said it before when discussing these situations; we are in uncharted territory. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, even within the Ohio Valley, let alone across West Virginia. Our local school systems are moving forward with what they believe will work, but other counties won’t be able to take the same approach. Some may even be more prepared because of the resources they have available to them.

This issue also reinforces the long-discussed concern of the lack of viable internet access in many areas of West Virginia. Somehow, the state anticipates being able to set up mobile wireless hotspots throughout the state. For whatever reason, officials haven’t wanted to do that before.

It’s just one more example that politicians don’t seem to focus on things that will truly help the state until there’s an emergency or they see the tides turning against them.

For now, let’s focus on what it takes to make sure the kids receive the education they need.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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