MASON COUNTY — After an unprecedented announcement from Gov. Jim Justice closing all schools across the state to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, local county school officials were busy determining the details in a fluid situation that seems to change by the hour.
The Point Pleasant Register spoke to Mason County Schools Superintendent Jack Cullen on Friday, after a day of in-person meetings and two telephone conference calls with officials from the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) for Cullen that same day.
Here is what is known as of Friday evening:
– Schools are officially closed for an undetermined amount of time following the dismissal of classes on Friday, March 13.
– All staff will report at regular time on Monday, March 16. Staff only are allowed at work locations. No children may be in the buildings. If personnel have to be absent then they are to follow their local leave policies.
– Breakfast and lunch will be available for students under the age of 18 at all schools beginning this Monday. Breakfast will be served from 8 – 9 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Food will be brought to the front of each school building for pick-up by families. Students must be in the car. More information from the central office will be forthcoming for principals and cooks. These will be “bagged” meals.
– It is unclear whether the suspension of classes will ultimately affect the school calendar. According to guidelines from WVDE, “As long as staff are working in the schools supporting students we will not have to make up days. Depending on the length of the closure, a decision will be made regarding if and how missed instructional days will be made up.”
– In relation to homework for students, according to WVDE, “Instructional materials can be provided through multiple avenues, including but not limited to, electronically, in conjunction with the food distribution or through social media.”
– All spring sports are canceled until schools are back in session. The 14-day mandatory practice day rule applies at this time.
– Spring break remains scheduled for March 30 – April 3 in Mason County.
– Gov. Jim Justice will make a public announcement when schools resume.
Cullen said he and his staff are aware some children and their families have limited transportation and therefore cannot pick up meals or homework assignments. Cullen and staff are working to find a solution to this problem, which may include delivering meals and homework to certain locations out in the county where access to transportation and internet connectivity are issues. This effort may take several people, including bus drivers and volunteers, Cullen said, adding the WVDE guidelines stated resources through the Army National Guard and Agriculture Department would be made available in regards to food delivery and other needed supplies as well.
Cullen also explained, just how students will receive their instructional materials is also being worked out, as stated previously in this article, WVDE allows that material be provided through multiple avenues, including but not limited to, electronically, in conjunction with the food distribution or through social media. Cullen said if a parent cannot drive their child to pick up meals or homework assignments if applicable, they should call their child’s school and let the staff know as plans for possible delivery locations are being determined and arrangements for delivery can be made.
As many details were being worked out following Friday’s announcement, Cullen stressed the best informational tools parents can use are the Mason County School’s website, Facebook page and Twitter account for updates. Updates can also be found by downloading and using the Mason County Schools App.
Some additional guidelines provided to school administrators from WVDE on Friday concerning this closure were:
– WVDE will be working closely with testing contractors to extend testing windows for all students when possible.
– The USDE will provide flexibility to states regarding testing, accountability and special education guidelines.
– If counties have already prepared alternative instructional materials send those home as soon as possible. Special Education students’ IEPs and 504s must be followed per their instructional requirements.
– Postpone kindergarten and preschool registration as it is non-essential activity.
– Local Board meetings can be held as scheduled.
Cullen said in addition to a meeting on Saturday with local church leaders concerning food distribution for students, he is attending more meetings all day Monday, as he, staff members and the board of education continue to address the details of, and solutions to, this closure. The Register will provide information on the response of Mason County Schools as it becomes available here, on its website at https://www.mydailyregister.com/ and on its Facebook page.
Additional information on COVID-19 can be found on the WVDE website at https://wvde.us/covid19/
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.