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W.Va. Board of Education unanimously passes return to in-person education

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 4:02 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A motion for PK-8 students to return to in-person instruction four or five days a week by March 3 went up for a vote Tuesday afternoon during a West Virginia Board of Education meeting and was passed unanimously.

Board members also recommended that high school students return to in-person instruction five days a week unless the county is listed as red on the state’s color-coded map.

Prior to the vote, board members heard from Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginian’s Coronavirus Czar.

Dr. Marsh told board members he believed it was safe for students to return to in-person learning and that in 2020 schools experienced no spread between teachers and students. However, Marsh said it was up to members to do what they felt was best for students, teachers and staff in West Virginia.

Dr. Marsh also said, based on evidence, maintaining social distancing of three feet is enough to reduce transmission and the only evidence of COVID-19 spreading in classrooms was when masks were not worn, teachers were holding conferences and during sports and music instruction.

According to Dr. Marsh, masking 90 percent or more of the people in a given area has the same success in stopping the spread of the virus as the COVID-19 vaccine.

When asked about newer air filtration systems being installed in classrooms, Dr. Marsh said the systems wouldn’t do much to stop the spread of the virus. He said that’s why masks and social distancing is so important. Dr. Marsh said masks have even helped to prevent the spread of the flu and other diseases this year.

Dr. Marsh recommended that officials continue to bases decisions about in-person learning for high school students on the state’s color-coded county alert system map. Dr. Marsh said Tuesday that high schools have proven to be similar to small communities. Dr. Marsh cited studies that found the spread of COVID-19 among high schoolers is similar to that of adults.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee addressed the West Virginia State Board of Education Tuesday during a special meeting to discuss in-person instruction options following Governor Jim Justice’s executive order for full-time in-person instruction to resume in elementary and middle schools. High school in-person instruction continues to be determined by the COVID-19 map color.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic barreled into our lives, our driving concern has been and continues to be the safety of our students, their families and educators. West Virginia educators have done the impossible to reach each student even with the lack of technology and broadband, all the while caring for their own families,” said Lee. “It is imperative you do the right thing for our students and our public schools and maintain the flexible, blended learning model. Respect educators’ professional judgment in safely teaching our students.”

Lee cited a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report showing students and educators are indeed transmitters of COVID-19. Lee shared with board members photos of classrooms where educators worked hard to maintain a safe, social distanced classroom and where safety was impossible because of the size of the room and the numbers of students in each classroom. He reiterated his invitation for State Board members to visit classrooms to “to see for yourselves the teaching and learning conditions our students and educators are living with every day. And ask yourself – is this a safe situation in the midst of this pandemic?”

Lee reminded state board members that educators “must remain a priority in getting vaccinated so they can feel safe as they work with our students. That promise must be kept.”

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