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Kanawha County Schools set for in-person return, vaccination process

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state’s largest school system, Kanawha County Schools, is set to return to in-person learning on January 19 as the county and the majority of West Virginia’s 55 counties are in the red on the COVID-19 alert map.

Elementary and middle schools across all counties can return to the classroom on that date per orders from Gov. Jim Justice, regardless of status on the map. Counties have to be out of the red for high schools to return.

“Things change and you never know what is around the corner but as of right now, we are planning on all of our schools reopening on January 19,” Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Tom Williams told MetroNews affiliate 580-WCHS.

Kanawha County School Superintendent Tom Williams
Tom Williams

The plan includes teachers and staff 50 years of age and older being vaccinated from the virus in the coming days. Kanawha County Schools (KCS) is hosting the West Virginia Joint Interagency Taskforce on Thursday for the first vaccination event for employees of its kind.

The event takes place from 8 a.m. to Noon at both South Charleston High School and Capital High School but walk-ins are not welcome. Williams told 580-WCHS that those staff members participating, near 1,000 of the KCS’ 3,800 employees, in the event signed up to be vaccinated prior to Christmas.

There will be additional events in the future, announced as soon as the school system receives information on doses.

Williams said teachers and staff have mixed feelings about the return but the event may tame some of those. He said the school system has plenty of funding to prioritize safety and principals are letting the central office know what they need.

“They want to be back in the classroom but they are afraid, some of them are. They have concerns of catching COVID. Hopefully the vaccine will calm some of those fears,” Williams said.

Williams said students need to return to the classroom.

“It’s better for them academically, socially, emotionally, physically. Just all-around better to have our kids in school,” he said.

The school system returned from winter break on Monday where all students, including those who selected in-person education, learned from home.

53% percent of families selected in-person for the fall semester and Williams said 54% have picked in-person for the spring.

The semester change for KCS is January 19.

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