Schools superintendents say latest state guidelines will mesh with ongoing reopening plans

Superintendents of West Virginia’s county school systems say newly-described state guidelines mesh with what they’ve already been working toward.

But the superintendent of Monongalia County Schools did say it seems like the latest state guidance came together without much hint of what they would be.

Gov. Jim Justice released what his administration called a reopening plan on Wednesday. It included a color-coded map to designate whether it’s safe for districts to keep schools open, a goal of installing 1,000 wifi hotspots for students and a discussion of teachers having their own choice about working in-school or virtually that had to be refined.

“I didn’t have no idea. I don’t think any of the 55 county superintendents did,” said Monongalia County Superintendent Eddie Campbell today on “Talk of the Town” on WAJR Radio.

“We had a teams meeting with Superintendent Burch earlier, and we don’t think that he had really any idea what was going to be said. So I think we were all waiting with baited breath, very anxiously, to see what his announcement was. I think for the most part, it was a reiteration of things we’ve been working on since the announcement came that we were going to start school on Sept. 8.”

So, Campbell said, the latest guidance doesn’t really change the direction for counties.

“We’re prepared with what was laid out,” Campbell said. “I was aware we were looking — and we’ve been aware for several weeks now — that they were looking at a type of a dashboard that was going to be displayed on a county-by-county basis that we would all be really adhering to as far as our ability to be open and stay open that really revolved around data around active cases in our counties.

“So I don’t think that changes anything as we move forward.”

Listen to “Dave & Sarah | August 6, 2020” on Spreaker.

Other counties reacted similarly to the guidance about a very uncertain start to the school year.

Cabell County Superintendent Ryan Saxe said a color-coded system was already in the works there.

“I’m glad there’s a metric that all stakeholders can see to determine when it’s safe to reenter our buildings,” Saxe said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

But he said that will require some modifications by the county. “I definitely think we will be adapting our system to align with what the state is developing,” Saxe said.

Saxe said the school system is preparing by hiring additional health personnel for the school system and obtaining personal protective equipment, including plastic shields for desks.

He said the school system will try to provide as much certainty as possible while also urging parents to be ready with their own contingency plans if the situation requires a shutdown.

“I think we’re going to try to keep things as normal as possible as the safety dictates,” Saxe said.

“It brings a unique opportunity for us to see how we can evolve with the times. Unfortunately the covid-19 situation is what’s bringing about that evolution.”

Raleigh County Schools Superintendent David Price agreed that superintendents heard about the governor’s most recent guidelines at the same moment the general public did.

“We heard what everybody else heard yesterday,” Price said. “As that press conference was going on, superintendents were getting the information just as everyone else was getting it. So we’re waiting to see some of that.”

He said the governor’s envisioned county-by-county, color-coded maps of coronavirus conditions will help communities to make data-based decisions.

“We know that’ll be a great asset for us to make our decisions. I’m glad they’re doing that. Wish we’d have had it earlier, but we’ll have it hopefully this week or early next week,” Price said on “Radio Roundtable” on WJLS Radio.

Raleigh County’s hybrid plan calls for starting with shifts of two days in school and three days of home learning. The longer-term goal is to return to classrooms five days a week.

“We’ll play that by ear,” Price said. “I think we’ll get there sooner than later. But we’re gonna take this slow and steady, those first four weeks, and evaluate as we go along.”

Starting schools during a pandemic carries undeniable uncertainties, Price said.

“People keep saying it’s a very fluid situation. It is very fluid, and it changes day to day,” he said. “We feel like we have a very solid plan that will provide us a foundation to get back to school how we need to safely and be responsible doing it, taking care of our students and our staff in a responsible way.”

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