Mon County Schools gear up for return to in-person instruction

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Next week, the Mon County Schools phased return to the classroom will begin March 1.

The plan does not change the status of students in the Virtual Academy.

Dr. Lee Smith, Mon County Health Officer is pleased with the downward trend in case numbers, but reminded board of education members about spikes in June, September and November of 2020.

“These are just numbers and I want to encourage people to keep their guard up,” Dr. Smith said,” For some people, it may be months before they get their vaccine, in the meantime we know what works- wear your mask, wash your hands and watch your distance.”

Deputy Superintendent, Donna Talerico told board members they have been reviewing survey results from parents to prepare for the return to the classroom.

“The numbers at the elementary level are the highest in the return,” Talerico said,” Followed by the middle and then the high schools have the lowest response for in-person learning.”

For the return, masks, hand hygiene and social distancing will be enforced. Additionally, extra partitions and PPE has been purchased for the school buildings.

“Every piece of research and what I’ve Dr. Marsh today reiterate, again following the American Academy of Pediatrics standard and the CDC, we will in Monongalia County follow the 3-foot distance in the classroom,” Talerico said.

Some have suggested to wait until all teachers are fully vaccinated, but the phasing plan was no longer followed when age groups were lowered by the governor. The move away from the phase system has tightened an already limited vaccine supply.

“I can’t personally escort someone to the front of the line, it doesn’t work like that,” Dr. Smith said,” I am a recipient of the orders that get pushed out from up above and say you’re going to do this age group or this work group.”

When asked about ventilation systems, Dr. Smith talked about anecdotal evidence from people flying to destinations in the region and even to tourist areas in state like Florida.

“There’s no magic going on there, they might be going to the Magic Kingdom, but there’s no magic in that ventilation system,” Dr. Smith said,” So, what we know is people are not contracting the illness out of being in those closed spaces.”

The West Virginia Board of Education has voted to require elementary and middle schools to return to five-day-a-week instruction beginning March 3. Grades 8 through 12 will attend school as long as the county is not in red status.