The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) guidance incorporates updated practices supported by the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). The importance of in-person learning cannot be overstated, as it addresses the student’s academic, social-emotional, development and basic needs. As all grade levels resume full, in-person learning, it is more important to adhere to the mitigations and protocols outlined below. When these are enforced and followed, the data reveals that schools are among the safest places for children, and heightened transmission rates experienced in communities are not reflected within the schools. Local boards of education will work with county health departments to determine if isolated instances of schools or classrooms moving to limited remote learning are required. In these cases, essential student support services including meals, engagement for at-risk students and all special education services will continue.

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Key Mitigation Strategies

Virtual Learning Options Remain for Families

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Roadmap to Recovery

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Pre-K through Grade 12

  • All students will attend in-person instruction five, full days per week effective March 24, 2021.

  • A local county board of education retains the authority to work with local health officials and to close individual classrooms or schools when a specific health need related to that classroom or school is identified. Such closures shall be of limited duration and related to the specific health need of the school or classroom. Teachers and staff will continue to provide essential student support services including meals, student engagement, all special education services and support to at-risk students.

  • Counties that are utilizing classroom teachers to teach both in-person students and full-time students participating in locally designed virtual programs may submit a waiver request to the State Superintendent to request the ability to conduct in-person instruction four days per week to allow sufficient time to support full-time virtual students.

  • Parents will continue to have the ability to choose a virtual learning option for their children.

Families have the option to keep their children in virtual learning, regardless of changes to in-person instruction.

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The Case for In-person Instruction

COVID-19 Knowledge Then vs. Now

When schools were moved to remote learning on March 13, 2020, little was known about protecting the general population against COVID-19. Schools, businesses and much of society closed down sending people home and isolated from one another.

Teachers relied on remote learning that included online lessons, virtual teaching, paper packets, phone calls and other types of outreach to keep students engaged. The challenges were formidable and included:

  • Inconsistent virtual and remote learning platforms.
  • Technology limitations led to unequal access to quality education based on families’ socio-economic status, geographic location, and ability to assist students with assignments.
  • Inconsistent schedules for in-person learning adversely affect students especially the younger learners.

Schools are Safe

The state, much like the nation, has learned from past months of living with COVID-19. The most reliable lessons are from the data which tell a compelling story.

  • Schools do not reflect transmission rates occurring in the community.
  • Transmission rates in West Virginia schools during the first semester was .02 percent among students and .3 percent among teachers.
  • Schools are safer when key mitigations are enforced.

August – December 2020 COVID in Schools

The state, much like the nation, has learned from past months of living with COVID-19. The most reliable lessons are from the data which tell a compelling story.

  • 573 confirmed cases reported from 44 counties.
  • 68 outbreaks transmission in school setting.
  • 10 outbreaks among students’ transmission occurred by bus, classroom, or associated extracurricular activities.
  • Median outbreak in schools: 4 cases.
  • National data confirms schools do not pose threat of spreading the virus.
  • Schools are among the safest places for children.
  • When schools close because of virus spread in the community, transmission rates often increase because teachers and students do not remain home. Instead, they move about the community and are exposed.

Impact of virtual, blended and remote instruction

  • Reliance on learning modalities outside of consistent in-person instruction jeopardizes student learning and endangers student well-being.
  • First semester of 2020: 1/3 of students received failing grades in at least one core subject area.
  • Virtual learning models are not conducive to learning for most students without consistent, live engagement from a teacher from students’ own school.
  • DHHR reports reduction of child protective service referrals by an average of 50 – 54 percent per month because of the lack of in-person instruction.
  • Student social-emotional well-being suffers and exposure to trauma increases as a result of isolation caused by COVID and students being separated from the nurturing school environment.
  • Unequal access to equitable education because limited broadband statewide.
  • Kids Connect offers temporary relief but is not a long-term solution.
  • Schools are pillars of stability serving the needs of students, families and communities and offering ongoing interaction of at least one caring adult.
  • Students and communities relying on school-based health clinics miss well-child visits, scheduled vaccinations, and other healthcare benefits offered by the clinic.