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UPDATE| WVEA and AFT respond to color-coded system changes

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 11:48 AM EDT
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UPDATE 9/15/20 @ 4:23 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The West Virginia Education Association has made a comment on the changes made to the color-coded system.

WVEA President Dale Lee says, "We are angry that our state leaders continue to manipulate the color-coded map guiding the re-opening of school. Employees and parents need to have a system with continuity and stability in order to make plans and facilitate learning.

We think it is unwise and unnecessary to change course in the middle of the week. It was deemed too dangerous for in-person school on Saturday and little has changed except the recoding of the map.

Those counties in ‘gold’ should not return to class this week and wait to see the status of their county on Saturday evening before making any changes.

We continue to be frustrated and disillusioned that the rules keep changing regarding what is safe for our employees and students. The governor has spoken many times about the at-risk nature of our citizens and our educators. In WVEA’s recently conducted member survey, two-thirds identified themselves as at-risk or having a family member that is at-risk for COVID-19.

The governor said our banner must be “It has to be Safe.” Yet, there are no guarantees that the changes made to the map today will not have a negative impact on the health and safety of those in our schools. They have no idea whether these changes will put teachers, service professionals or students in harm’s way.

I certainly understand the need to have our students in school but if doing so risks the health of our school employees, students or their families, it is not worth the risk.

Additionally, we urge the governor and his team to resist making changes in the totals for Monongalia County that exclude counting the WVU students.

WVU’s campus is spread throughout the city and the students are not confined to a single location. Unlike the restricted movement of those in nursing homes and prisons, WVU students move freely throughout the county and commute to other counties.

They live throughout the community, shop and work in the local businesses, and eat in local restaurants. Students actions are not restricted, and no special provisions should be made for them in the county totals.

The continued tweaking of our school reentry guidelines from day to day does not instill confidence in the system or in the leaders making the decisions. The changes do not seem to be based on processing information but simply devising ways around the current system to ensure in-person learning and athletic contests occur – regardless of the risks.

Since the governor seems to be swayed by public input and lacks educators on his panel of experts, we urge all education employees and concerned citizens across the state to contact the Governor at 304.558.2000... "

The American Federation of Teachers - West Virginia, also released a statement on the school metric change.

Officials with the AFT-WV say, "today, Governor Justice unveiled additional changes to the WVDE color-coded school metric. While we agree that more testing is imperative in gaining a more accurate reflection of the infection rates in our communities, AFT-WV questions the effectiveness of a constantly changing metric for school attendance. Employees, parents, and students need a system they can trust and easily understand. While the ultimate goal is for every student to be taught in-person, the Governor should not pursue that goal at the expense of any child or employee’s health and safety. Since April, AFT-WV’s message has been consistent: we want our schools opened for face to face learning only when it is safe for students and staff. Additionally, our schools must have adequate PPE and proper sanitation supplies, and follow the protocols and procedures put forth by the local and state health experts.

AFT-WV has several questions and concerns related to these changes and is seeking clarification from Superintendent Burch.

Furthermore, AFT-WV believes that the school metric announcement for each week could be made on Friday afternoon since the data used ends on Thursday night. This would allow both parents and employees an additional day to plan accordingly for the next instructional week."

ORIGINAL STORY 9/15/20 @ 11:48 a.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A new color has been added to the color-coded system in West Virginia.

According to West Virginia Superintendent Clayton Burch, the gold column has been added.

The announcement was made during a press conference Tuesday morning.

Green includes 3 or fewer cases per 100,000. Yellow ranges between 3.1-9.9. Gold includes cases with the rate of 10-14.9. Orange is 15-24.9. Red is 25 and higher.

You can find the updated map by clicking here. It was updated Tuesday, September 15 and will be updated each Saturday at 5:00 p.m. and will determine instructional options for each county and the level of athletic and extra-curricular activities that are allowed.

Dr. Clay Marsh says they will continue looking at infection rate and add a percent positive rate that will also operate on a seven day rolling average.

There are two different ways to get into a better color: your infection rate must go down or your percent positive rate decreases.

If you’re in the green, you have a 3% or less positivity rate. In yellow, your positivity rate is 4% or less. Gold is 5% or less.

Superintendent Burch announced students in grades 3 through 12 will be required to wear a mask all the time. if you’re in gold, orange or red. If you’re green, masks are required for grades 3 and above on buses and in congregant settings where social distancing can’t be maintained. In the yellow, masks are required for grades 3-5 on buses and in congregant settings where social distancing isn’t possible. Students from grades 6 and above are required to wear a face covering at all times.

The West Virginia Department of Education says if you’re in the green, continue with the best health practices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, limit activities where social distancing isn’t feasible, and engage community to actively participate in continued mitigation.

If you’re yellow, schools are asked to increase student cohorting by limiting exposure outside of core groups, limit assemblies or large group activities where social distancing is not possible, and local education leaders will work with county health officials to determine if community engagement activities are necessary to prevent escalation of the virus.

In the gold, schools will be asked to increase student cohorting by limiting exposure of core groups, no assemblies or large group activities will be allowed. Education leaders will work with the health departments to determine if increased mitigation is necessary to prevent escalation of disease.

The Department of Education says if your county is in orange, in-person instruction will be suspended. Remote learning will be activated following the release of the Saturday Metric Map. Staff will continue essential student support services, including meals, student engagement and special education services.

In the red, all in-person instruction and all school related activities will be suspended immediately. Remote learning will be activated the next school day. The staff will continue to provide essential support services like meals, student engagement and special education services.

According to Bernie Dolan, the Executive Director of the WVSSAC, as far as extracurricular activities and athletics go, if you are in green or yellow, grandparents will be allowed at games, along with immediate household family members. Cheerleaders and bands may participate at home games.

In gold, attendance will be limited to parents and guardians. Cheerleaders and bands may still participate at home games. Schools are allowed to compete in-county or with other gold counties.

If your county is orange, athletics and extra-curricular activities are limited to conditioning only as defined by the WVSSAC. Marching band activities must be limited to outdoors only. Instruments will be permitted only when students are stationary and distanced in pods.

If red, all school-related athletic and extra-curricular activities are suspended immediately.

Governor Jim Justice says if you are in gold, red or orange, there will be no travel tournaments.

As far as travel ball for non-WVSSAC-related sports, an executive order will be issued later Tuesday to clarify restrictions.

Governor Justice also says they tweaked their color-code system and added another bracket to be able to get a lot of kids the opportunity to get back in school. He does say it has to be safe.

This is a developing story.

Keep checking the WSAZ App for the latest information.

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