MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Monongalia County Board of Education reviewed at least 15 letters from concerned educators and some family members while they debated how to approach the spring semester.
The letters expressed hope for the vaccine, but expressed serious concerns about virus spread rates, a lack of social distancing and available PPE in a full five-day-a-week setting. Some of the letters expressed shock that governor issued the order as case numbers surged.
Based on the letters, input from local health professionals and vaccine distribution numbers Superintendent Dr. Eddie Campbell recommended to remain in the current configuration and the board voted unanimously to accept.
“Superintendent recommends Monongalia County Schools remain in remote instruction through February 12, 2021,” Campbell said.
Under that plan, the the spring semester would start on February 16 with three options- hybrid, virtual and distance.
Under the hybrid model. middle and high school students will attend classes in buildings on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Elementary level students will attend in-person on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays. Teachers are given one Friday per month for preparation purposes.
Virtual learning is provided by the state and must be completed one semester at a time and all support must come from the department of education.
Distance learning is teachers in buildings providing lessons over the internet to student homes.
WVEA President Dale Lee told members of the media Tuesday his membership would prefer to return to the classroom in a blended model and would feel most comfortable if they receive the vaccine.
“We have 55 school districts and those 55 know what’s best for their counties and their students and their employees. I would contend their county is the one they should be listening to,” Lee said during a teleconference with reporters. “I would contend that is indeed who they should listen to.”
Monongalia County Board of Education President, Nancy Walker said by that proposed start date all employees 50 and older that opted for the vaccine would have it.
“The get their second dose February 12 then we would have had 750 people with both vaccines,” Walker said,” Hybrid would start on February 16.”
The start date would also allow winter sports teams to begin practice in accordance with guidance from the governor.
Students in mon County have struggled through the different types of learning this year, but the numbers of failing students is lower than statewide figures, according to Deputy Superintendent Donna Talerico.
“Our numbers do show an increase with students struggling at this time,” Talerico said,” It is it number that have portrayed statewide? No.”
Under the plan that is subject to change, teachers in the spring semester would again be required to manage in-person hybrid learners as well as distance leaners simultaneously.
“I agree with Dr. Campbell, that’s what we have done and continue to do throughout the course of this year,” Talerico said,” We most recently did it in December as people switched back and out. Is it something we can do? Certainly.”
The pandemic has shown all organizations that it is in control and can shuffle any plan at anytime. Further, as families watch case numbers they also have elected to opt out of in-person learning.
“We saw that in families as things amped up after Thanksgiving,” Talerico said,” Folks decided they weren’t comfortable with their children being in school, so our schools did have that happen I would say across the board.
On Wednesday the state board will meet and President Miller Hall plans to make a motion to allow counties to move to a blended option if they choose.
In Preston County, school board members have already voted to conduct remote learning at least until Feb. 8.