Some W.Va. schools are aiming for ‘hybrid’ starts as students return this fall

Some West Virginia county school systems are aiming to start the year with hybrid plans, where students are in classrooms some days and learning from home other days.

Raleigh County students, in the Beckley area, will likely begin the year two days a week in classrooms and three days a week learning from home.

The Raleigh County school board approved the plan Tuesday evening.

“When students are not attending face-to-face, they will be engaged at home in assignments that have been given to them and provided on our learning management system on Schoology or assignments that have been uploaded at school during face-to-face time,” Raleigh Schools Superintendent David Price said in the Register-Herald newspaper.

“The assignments will be supportive of what they did at school those two days.”

MORE: Read the Raleigh County re-entry plan. 

Mercer County, in the Bluefield area, is also considering options that don’t have students in classrooms for a full five days a week.

One option is a staggered schedule. Some students would attend Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with other students attending Tuesdays and Thursdays.

A second option is a shortened school day Monday through Friday.

The Mercer County school board unanimously voted for the two options Tuesday evening, according to the WVVA television station. The spread of coronavirus would also shape what option is selected.

“The plan includes both options and the purpose of that is to allow us to move between those options as necessary so it gives us the ability to have different scenarios based upon the grade level and and also based on the infection rate in the county at the time,” Mercer County Schools Superintendent Deborah Akers told the television station.

Monongalia County schools, in an area where a covid hotspot developed this summer, are also trying to provide flexibility, said Superintendent Eddie Campbell this week on WAJR Radio’s “Talk of the Town.”

He said after a brief phased-in start, the aim is to provide in-classroom learning five days a week.

“It’s a phased-in re-entry over a seven-day period. We’ll be bringing in smaller groups to kind of re-acclimate them with the intent that after seven days, any of our parents and students who want that in-person, live instruction as normal of a school day as they’ve had in the past, they’ll have that option,” Campbell said.

“We also understand — we’ve heard from a lot of folks who don’t feel like they’re ready to send their kids back at this stage of the game. So we’ve put together a full virtual schedule for that.”

Listen to “Dave & Sarah | July 27, 2020” on Spreaker.

The state Department of Education has provided a framework for reopening on a delayed date of Sept. 8, but has largely left the details to local school systems.

County plans are due to the state by August 14.

State Superintendent Clayton Burch

State Superintendent Clayton Burch in June described probability of hybrid learning in systems across the state, with younger students gathering in classrooms four days a week with the fifth designated as a cleaning day and with older students attending in classrooms two or three days a week.

But in July, Burch told state school board members that most systems seemed to be leaning toward having school in classrooms five days a week.

In a “Keeping ConnectED” video released late last week, Burch expanded on re-entry guidelines, saying “these plans are fluid and have a lot of moving parts. Giving options to families is our number one priority.”

He said those options include returning to school buildings, virtual school and remote learning. He said the overriding goal is to ensure school is safe and healthy.

“Counties may have options for blended models: That is, staggered starts, multiple days, five days a week. But the idea is, children are live in the building.”

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