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Marion County school board votes to follow state’s guidelines, reverses previous second-semester plans

All counties in West Virginia now fall in line with state in-person learning mandate
Marion County Board of Education (File)
Marion County Board of Education (File)(WDTV)
Published: Jan. 22, 2021 at 11:58 AM EST
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FAIRMONT, W.Va (WDTV) - The Marion County Board of Education decided to back off from its plan to go against the state’s in-person learning mandate.

The board held an emergency meeting Friday morning to reverse its previous second-semester plan. The state school board had its own emergency meeting this week to discuss possible penalties for counties not in line with its guidelines.

Marion County’s BOE voted unanimously to fall in line with the state’s guidelines to only have remote learning for grades 9-12 if a county is red. It previously voted to have full remote learning if the county was orange or red on the DHHR map.

It will now return to a two-day in-person blended learning model.

Marion was the last of three counties left in the state not following the state’s in-person learning mandate. Instead of taking action this week, the state BOE decided to give counties until Jan. 26 to come up with a plan that fits their guidelines.

“Three districts sit here and say, ‘we can’t get it done,’ they going to get it done. If not, we’ll do it for them,” State BOE President Miller Hall said during Wednesday’s meeting.

Taylor County also decided to follow the state’s guidelines and voted Thursday night to return to blended instruction. Gilmer County also voted to comply with the state’s directive.

Some board members said they felt “strong-armed” by the state board of education following its meeting Wednesday.”I don’t like being strong-armed by the state, I don’t like being told what to do, I don’t the feeling of just rolling over,” said Marion County BOE member Donna Costello, who also said she’s concerned with the number of students not receiving in-person instruction. “If we are honestly to do what is in the best interest for all in the county, I’m going to say that I think that we have to accept the recommendation.”

Marion County Superintendent Randall Farley said 69% of parents in the county chose in-person learning as their preferred method for the second semester during Friday’s meeting, which was held virtually.

“We can’t control many of the factors, especially those outside of our schools,” Farley said, advocating for returning to a blended learning model.

Marion County Health Department Administrator Lloyd White told board members he felt the blended learning model can be successful if mitigation measures are in place.

“The color (of the DHHR map) has nothing to do with transmission,” White said. “But our behavior has everything to do with transmission. If we continue to do the things that we’ve done, because we know they work, then we’ll be fine.”

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