CHARLESTON — With the daily number of new COVID-19 cases continuing to climb in recent days, Gov. Justice announced Wednesday that he and state education leaders are now targeting Sept. 8 as the tentative date to resume student instruction in school buildings in all 55 counties across West Virginia.
“No one wants us to go back to school more than I do,” Gov. Justice said. “But, at the end of the day, I’m going to do what I think is the best thing and safest thing for our kids. And I am not going to move forward with going back to school until I am absolutely as sure as I can be that our kids, teachers, service personnel, and parents are going to be safe.
“Everyone has got to realize that this situation is a moving target like you can’t imagine,” Justice continued. “The more information we have and the longer that we can push this out, the better off we’ll all be. With our cases exploding to the upside, if we were to rush this and go back to school in two or three weeks, in my opinion it’s the wrong decision because we just don’t know what’s going to happen. We have to buy some time.”
Mason County Schools Superintendent Jack Cullen said Mason County Schools is aiming to have students in the buildings on Sept. 8, but noted that could change with changes to the pandemic locally.
“They will try to limit closing the whole state, just (close) the counties that would have hot spots and would need to go to remote learning,” Cullen said.
Cullen said the state department of education would be releasing sample calendars to county superintendents this week. The plan for Mason County will be unknown until reviewing the samples and discussing options. Cullen said there is a possibility of returning to the buildings all five days per week, going to school for four days and have one day remote or in school two days and three days remote. Cullen said these options could also change during the year and could vary based on the circumstances.
The current last day of school for students is scheduled for June 2, 2021 and Cullen said that will be the target in planning a new calendar.
“We will plan for students to start Sept. 8. Could that be remotely? Yes, it could be,” Cullen said. “It could also be in person.”
Cullen said instruction for student learning and safety for students and staff are the most important factors being considered.
The Governor added that officials with the West Virginia Department of Education, including Superintendent Clayton Burch, have conceptualized a condensed student instruction calendar, starting Sept. 8, that would provide 180 days of instruction while still allowing the school year to conclude by the end of May.
Gov. Justice also said that he has been in discussions with leaders from the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission about plans to potentially push back the fall sports calendar. Additional information will be provided at a later date.
Kayla Hawthorne contributed to this article.