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Early Friday dismissals begin today in Jefferson County schools

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Jefferson County School Superintendent Bondy Shay Gibson-Learn says the decision to dismiss students three hours early every Friday for the next six weeks is about improving the quality of education in her school district.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson-Learn

According to Gibson, that quality has been hurt by ongoing absences and vacancies in teaching and staff positions. She said the system averages about 150 open positions a day, about half of those are unfilled positions.

“That means that someone in that building has to do both their regular job during the day and cover the job of the absent person,” Gibson-Learn told MetroNews. “Oftentimes in the case of teachers that means during their planning period and their lunch they are covering someone else’s class.”

The Friday early-outs, which begin today and go through Nov. 19, will provide catch-up time, Gibson-Learn said.

“Some of the maintenance things and some of the foundational things that go into good instruction weren’t getting done,” she said. “There’s a reason that teachers have planning time. There’s a reason that custodians have deep cleaning time. Right now they are spending that time covering open positions and those things aren’t getting done.”

Gibson-Learn said she’s hopeful Jefferson County schools can return to a full schedule in six weeks. She said three key things are happening that help including a “very large-scale retention and recruitment plan, an anticipated reduction in COVID-19 quarantine numbers and the ability to hire December college graduates for open positions.

Gibson-Learn said she’s not so much concerned about missing three hours of instruction each Friday as she is about the quality of education when students are at school.

“We have certain high expectations of ourselves and we have to find a way to meet those even under these circumstances,” she said.

She compares it to a sports team that finds itself not having time to practice in the middle of the season.

“After a while that starts showing up in your game,” she said. “We’re having to pull back and get some practice in with the idea being that our game will be much, much better for kids if we have that opportunity.”

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