In separate motions, Mon County Schools stick with remote learning and the state Board of Education mandates students return to school. Which one will reign supreme?
The Mon County School Board wants to remain in remote instruction until February 16. The state Board of Education says it can’t and that students in PreK-8 should go back to school five days each week beginning January 19. And Mon County Superintendent Eddie Campbell has filed a waiver request to stick with the board’s plan anyway at least through February 12.
Sam Burnett, president of American Federation of Teachers-Monongalia (AFT) spoke with Campbell January 14 and Campbell advised if the waiver isn’t successful Mon County Schools will go back to blended learning January 21.
Parents are confused, and who can blame them?
The Mon County Board’s plan was based on advice from the two leading health experts that have been guiding county school attendance decisions since the start of the school year: Dr. Lee Smith, head of the Mon County Health Department, and Dr. Chris Edwards, Mon Health System Emergency Department Medical Director.
Smith says he’s not comfortable with a return to 5-day instruction until all school system staff members have been vaccinated and the time period to reach maximum effectiveness following the vaccine has passed. Following that rule, Mon County students would not return to school five days a week until March. Smith also says that schools that do return to full-time, in-person instruction cannot abandon current mitigation strategies like social distancing, which would be an impossible feat in most county schools when their entire student populations are present.
Edwards says he feels confident recommending a return to blended learning now if the board chooses that path. The science doesn’t support a return to 5-day instruction for Edwards either. But he feels blended learning would be safe enough because, through contact tracing, it has become clear that most cases of COVID-19 in the student population prove to be due to community transmission, not transmission in schools.
The push by the state to get all kids back in the classroom rests on the notion that more than one-third of West Virginia students are failing one or more of their core subjects. Those numbers don’t represent Mon County students, Mon County Schools Deputy Superintendent Donna Talerico told the board Tuesday night. “Mon County has a lot of attributes that are different from other school districts, Talerico says. “Our numbers do show an increase with students struggling at this time … but they’re not exorbitant and not as high as the state level. We are not in a dire situation by any means.”
So parents are once again left to hurry up and wait to see what the state Board of Education will do. Students might just be heading back to school on Tuesday. Or February 16. Or a yet-to-be-determined date later in the year that will be over before you know it.