CHARLESTON —This week, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) released initial scenarios for the re-entry and recovery of schools for the 2020-21 school year and beyond during the June meeting of the West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE).
The information, housed on the WVDE’s website, represents the work of the state’s School Re-entry Advisory Council which is a partnership between the Office of Governor Jim Justice, WVDE, the WVBE, public health officials, local and national agencies and organizations and county superintendents.
The information considers three re-entry scenarios: Safer at School/Safer at Home; Blending Learning Delivery Models; or Full Remote Delivery. Counties may use the scenarios or hybrid models to best meet the needs of their students.
The “Safer at School/Safer at Home” scenario would have students attend school a minimum of four days with one day of remote learning or some similar configuration determined by the county. On the remote days, the building will be rigorously sanitized. (Preferred elementary school scenario to best meet developmental needs.)
The “Blended Learning Delivery Models” would mean students may attend schools a limited number of days. Class sizes may be limited and/or creative scheduling implemented to minimize student mobility in the school. All students will be engaged in learning five days a week through a blended learning model.
The “Full Remote Delivery” is if an outbreak occurs and a stay at home order is issued, all students will complete school assignments remotely five days a week. This will require the teacher and students to communicate daily and develop a process for monitoring, reviewing and/or grading of student engagement activities.
Mason County School Supt. Jack Cullen said the county will follow orders by Gov. Jim Justice and the WVDE when making plans to return to school in the fall. Cullen also said that local and state health officers’ opinions will “weigh heavily into their decisions.”
“We must get students back in the classrooms with our teachers providing instruction as much as possible,” Cullen said. “We also have to address the safety and well being of our students and staff.”
Cullen agreed that the “Safer at School/Safer at Home” scenario meets the needs of elementary students best and the “Blended Learning Delivery Model” was better for secondary schools.
“Committees will be working on plans this summer for ways to provide instruction to students based on the three scenarios released yesterday,” Cullen said. “We will want to have everything in place by the end of July in case we cannot return to a regular school schedule for students and staff. We will have to move from one scenario to another based on any outbreaks that may occur and then switch back when conditions allow them to return.”
“The outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent national and state emergencies have shed a glaring light on critical issues facing children and families,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “Child well-being, equity and access to technology, and the achievement gap will be the main focus of our work because they are an important part of everything we do. Our efforts will continue as we work with our partners to further develop the framework that will assist counties making local decisions.”
More than 40 partner organizations vetted, reviewed and provided insight around the focus areas that include: instruction and learning; physical, social-emotional and mental wellness; career technical education (CTE); child nutrition; special education; safe schools and transportation; finance; extracurricular activities/extended activities; and technology.
The WVDE recognizes that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is fluid, and guidance will continuously be updated to ensure it aligns with Governor Justice’s and public health officials’ best practices. At utmost importance for all considerations of re-entry is the safety of West Virginia’s students, teachers and extended education community.
To view the re-entry scenarios, please visit wvde.us/reentry, and for more information and updates on the coronavirus in West Virginia, please visit coronavirus.wv.gov.
Kayla Hawthorne contributed to this report regarding information about Mason County Schools. Other material provided by WVDE.