Last week, parents had lingering questions about the return to school. Now we have some answers.
Two weeks ago, the Mon County School Board voted that kids would start returning to five-day in-person instruction March 1. We heard the news and were like, “OK, but ….” Many Mon County parents we were hearing from still had concerns. Now we have some answers to share.
Our timing is good because, after its meeting on February 23, the School Board is committed to its adopted return-to-school plan that the superintendent’s office has dubbed “Spring Forward to Five.” Elementary school students go back Monday, March 1; middle school students follow on Wednesday, March 3; and high school students will return on Monday, March 8.
The four lingering questions we posed last week:
Q: What is the percentage of students that will be on each school campus?
A: According to results from a questionnaire circulated by Mon County Schools last week, elementary schools will have 80 percent of their students on campus, middle schools will have 75 percent, and high schools will have 66 percent—all above the 58 percent system-wide Superintendent Eddie Campbell predicted before the survey.
Q: How is one meter, or 3.2 feet, of distance between people OK for physical distancing in schools when the CDC recommends six feet?
A: Monongalia County Public Health Officer Dr. Lee Smith was at the School Board meeting Tuesday night. He says there are ways to protect kids on campus regardless of how many of them there are: wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping distance between them. He says the first two are the most important.
Some schools will have trouble maintaining the Centers for Disease Control–recommended six feet of physical distance between students. Many schools will settle for the 3.2 feet, or one meter, of distance recommended by Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh when 6 feet can’t be achieved. In support of this, Smith cited success with preventing high rates of infection in Asian countries where children attend school in very close quarters.
Q: The CDC says high school students transmit the virus at a rate similar to college students. Is going back to five-day instruction smart with this population?
A: The best answer we have for this one is that the state school board backed off of mandating the return to five-day school for high schools and instead suggested they go back as soon as possible, as long as the county isn’t red on the state COVID map. It also left in place the option for parents to continue choosing a distance-learning model for their children.
Q: And what if, after further reflection, parents change their mind? Are they really locked into the choice they made on the survey, or will Mon County Schools continue to work with families?
A: The School Board has said students would be locked into the learning method chosen in the questionnaire the superintendent’s office circulated last week. However, school administrators want the best for the county’s children, just like their parents do. Our advice if you change your mind: Call your child’s school and talk with the administration about your concerns.
The decisions at the local and state levels still allow parents to make the ultimate decisions on how their children will attend school for the remainder of the school year. The CDC published a helpful tool for parents struggling with the decision. You can access it here. You can also read the CDC’s operational strategies for school’s here.