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Two-thirds of families in Putnam County selecting in-person learning over virtual

WINFIELD, W.Va. — Monday was the deadline for families in Putnam County to register how they wanted their child or children to learn this fall and Putnam County Schools Superintendent John Hudson said around one-third selected the virtual option.

Hudson, speaking to MetroNews on Monday morning, said there were over 5,100 families that responded to the county school system at that time with around 1,600 selecting the virtual path.

The county board voted Aug. 3 to give parents the two options of can either attending 5-day in-person classes with state and federal health guidelines in place, or take part in virtual classes, which will be led by county and West Virginia Virtual School instructors.

Hudson said this was the first hard deadline for parents but understands things are fluid and families could change decisions.

John Hudson

“We are here to be servants but we have to get data to help us make decisions regarding the number of teachers we may need in a particular grade level, for example,” Hudson told MetroNews.

“We do understand this is a difficult situation for our families and we do know we have to have some flexibility built into that.”

Hudson said the total number of families that responded as of Monday morning was 5,141, around two-thirds of the county. He sent out a message on Monday, following the deadline, to update families on information for either re-entry option they chose.

VIEW: Putnam County Schools re-entry plan

All students who are signed up for the virtual plan will begin on September 8 and will receive instruction using county-issued Apple iPads or Lenovo Thinkpad laptops with Schoology or West Virginia Learns platform.

Hudson said there is no intent for teachers to be working “double-duty” by teaching both the 5-day model and virtual plan.

He gave an example of a school having four 2nd grade classrooms but only have enough students signed up for the in-person model to use three classrooms. Hudson said the fourth instructor may be available to teach the virtual plan.

The in-person, 5-day model is scheduled to begin Sept. 8, with all public schools across West Virginia, but in a staggered fashion. The staggered re-entry plan will be from Sept. 8-18 where students will be divided between in-school and distance learning.

The split amongst classes will be based on the student’s last name, as the students with last names beginning with letters “A” through “K” will begin with in-school lessons, while students with last names beginning with “L” through “Z” with start with distance learning.

Hudson said the staggered return helps both the school officials and students learn how to keep a safe environment.

“During that period, we can teach the appropriate way of leaving the bus, where they enter the school, where they have breakfast and lunch, how they go to eat. This will allow us to see how they change classes, the numbers on our buses,” Hudson said.

The plan, developed by multiple stakeholders, features multiple rules in an attempt to limit COVID-19 including hand sanitizing stations throughout institutions and foot traffic being directed.

According to Hudson, the desks and tables inside classrooms will be spaced to allow for as much social distancing as possible.

There haven’t been in-person classes in West Virginia since the coronavirus pandemic began in March.

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