CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) released initial scenarios for the re-entry and recovery of schools for the 2020-21 school year and beyond during the June meeting of the West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE). The information, housed on the WVDE’s website, represents the work of the state’s School Re-entry Advisory Council which is a partnership between the Office of Governor Jim Justice, WVDE, the WVBE, public health officials, local and national agencies and organizations and county superintendents.
The information considers three re-entry scenarios:
● Safer at School/Safer at Home;
● Blending Learning Delivery Models; or
● Full Remote Delivery.
Counties may use the scenarios or hybrid models to best meet the needs of their students.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent national and state emergencies have shed a glaring light on critical issues facing children and families,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “Child well-being, equity and access to technology, and the achievement gap will be the main focus of our work because they are an important part of everything we do. Our efforts will continue as we work with our partners to further develop the framework that will assist counties making local decisions.”
More than 40 partner organizations vetted, reviewed and provided insight around the focus areas that include: Instruction and learning; physical, social-emotional and mental wellness; career technical education (CTE); child nutrition; special education; safe schools and transportation; finance; extracurricular activities/extended activities; and technology.
The WVDE recognizes that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is fluid, and guidance will continuously be updated to ensure it aligns with Governor Justice’s and public health officials’ best practices. At utmost importance for all considerations of re-entry is the safety of West Virginia’s students, teachers and extended education community.
The three options are as follows:
● Safer at School/Safer at Home: Students will attend school a minimum of four days with one day or remote learning or some similar configuration determined by the county. On the remote days, the building will be rigorously sanitized. (Preferred elementary school scenario to best meet developmental needs.)
● Blended Learning Delivery Models: Students may attend schools a limited number of days. Class sizes may be limited and/or creative scheduling implemented to minimize student mobility in the school. All students will be engaged in learning five days a week through a blended learning model.
● Full Remote Delivery: If an outbreak occurs and a stay at home order is issued, all students will complete school assignments remotely five days a week. This will require the teacher and students to communicate daily and develop a process for monitoring, reviewing and/or grading of student engagement activities.
Considerations for re-entry as compiled by the Re-entry Advisory Council are as follows:
● Until access to a vaccination or treatment is available to students and staff, the school day may not look the same as it has in the past.
● While under a State of Emergency, WVDE and school districts will follow the Governor’s and State Health Officials’ guidelines.
● If the State of Emergency is lifted, WVDE and school districts will make decisions based on the data regarding COVID-19 in individual districts/regions in conjunction with State Health Officials’ recommendations.
● School systems should consider the following:
— Limit visitors permitted in the school.
— Elementary students stay in core groups within designated classrooms for instruction, and related arts.
— Develop protocols for masks, handwashing, social distancing, etc.
— Evaluate athletic/physical activities, related arts and large gatherings on school time/property.
— Field trips should follow safety protocols and should be limited to maximize learning.
— Utilize outdoor classrooms when appropriate.
— Examine regional closings and/or single school closings rather than statewide closures.
— Utilize nurses to monitor the health of students, staff and facilities.
● Apply varying social distancing guidelines by student populations (for example: medically fragile students, young children).
● Strongly encourage counties to begin the school year earlier in the event of a resurgence of the virus.
● Capture remote learning days as instructional days requiring meaningful student engagement which is monitored, reviewed and/or graded in a timely manner.
● Define flexibilities for students who cannot attend daily and implement remote learning.
● Every county/school must develop a remote learning contingency plan in the event the county/school has to transition to a remote environment due to a resurgence of COVID.
● Consider expanding virtual school course offerings through local policies or through a partnership with West Virginia Virtual Schools, being mindful of the technology and broadband equity and access limitations.
● To create a safe environment for students, employees and families, additional protocols are under advisement and will be provided in the coming weeks.
— Daily screening for symptoms in students and staff.
— Consider masks when students are outside of core groups and cannot social distance. This includes while they are riding on school buses.