WV BOE and State Superintendent discuss in-person instruction

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Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 4:10 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) and Department of Education (WVDE) have released statements on returning to in-person instruction.

The WVBE and WVDE say they have reviewed data and heard the voices of state and national health officials: our schools are safe for both teachers and students.

Officials say the COVID-19 vaccine is being administered to education staff. That and the allocation of hundreds of millions more dollars for pandemic relief and recovery for West Virginia schools is what the WVBE and WVDE say will help reinforce efforts to return to in-person instruction.

The West Virginia Board of Education says they’ll consider additional precautionary measures to allow counties extended flexibilities for the return to in-person instruction.

According to the BOE, many counties have indicated wanting to return to in-person instruction five days a week as soon as possible, under the existing protocols. The department says this approach is the most effective way to provide an education and meet social and emotional needs.

Communities and local leaders have also expressed wanting to return to blended instruction until educators receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

President Miller L. Hall will recommend to the Board that counties will be allowed to continue blended learning models until school personnel have been fully vaccinated. This will not include remote learning models.

“As a state board of education, our unwavering commitment remains on the assurance that all counties are moving to full, in-person instruction for all children, said WVBE President Miller Hall. “It is our goal to return West Virginia students to in-person learning and reassure our education employees and parents that it is safe to do so.”

“The purpose of this recommendation is not to allow counties to back away from the January 19 return date announced by the Governor, but instead to strengthen the education support structure for our students keeping our eye on getting students back in the building as soon as possible,” Hall said. “The academic and extended needs of our students have suffered too much and our schools are the best way to get them back on track.”

“We continue to advocate for the return to full, in-person instruction because our children so desperately need to get back to school,” said State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “I respect the ability of local-level decision-making, however, our collective purpose must remain focused to ensure the constitutionally mandated educational goals of quality and equality are achieved.”

If the WVBE accepts the recommendation, then counties who are ready to return to in-person fully can on January 19 and those who want to continue with blended instruction can do so until all school employees are vaccinated.

According to the Department of Education, 9,140 educators and school personnel ages 50 and older were vaccinated this week. More vaccines will be given the week of January 10.

“We appreciate the response from our educators and school employees during the first week of the vaccine rollout,” said State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “Those who have come out to receive the vaccine are an important part of our recovery efforts as we return to in-person instruction statewide. We will continue to work with counties to facilitate a smooth process until all in our school system who want the vaccine have one.”

In addition, as part of the COVID Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, West Virginia will get over $339 million. It’s part of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF) round two allocations counties can use for continuity of operations, pandemic learning loss activities and health and safety needs (among others). The WVDE will provide counties with applications to get funds by January 19.

Counties will still have access to funds provided through the first round of ESSERF.

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