CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — As positive coronavirus cases continue to drop in West Virginia, the state Board of Education said Tuesday that counties should return elementary and middle school students to in-class instruction five days per week.
The board’s vote will eliminate blended schedules in which students have alternated between classroom and home-based online learning in response to the pandemic.
The move is effective March 3. Counties can apply for a waiver to conduct in-person learning four days per week and virtual instruction on the fifth day.
In-person instruction at high schools will continue to be determined by a state color-coded map. Many counties have returned to in-person instruction.
Families who previously chose online-only learning for their students regardless of grade are unaffected.
The West Virginia Education Association asked the board to allow counties to remain flexible with virus-based decisions.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic barreled into our lives, our driving concern has been and continues to be the safety of our students, their families and educators,” said WVEA President Dale Lee. “West Virginia educators have done the impossible to reach each student even with the lack of technology and broadband, all the while caring for their own families.
“Respect educators’ professional judgment in safely teaching our students.”
Gov. Jim Justice said last week that all teachers who received their first dose of the virus vaccine would be offered their second doses.
Students switched from in-person to online learning last March when Justice ordered classrooms closed for the remainder of the school year. The start of 2020-21 instruction was pushed back to Sept. 8, and counties have since juggled between learning in school or at home depending on virus outbreaks in their areas.
The Department of Health and Human Resources said there were 8,528 active COVID-19 cases statewide on Monday, the lowest since Nov. 12. Active cases have been falling rapidly since peaking at 29,257 on Jan. 10, a month after the state started administering virus vaccines.
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