September 4, 2020
CHARLESTON, W.VA. – As the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) eagerly approaches the start of the new school year, it joins the community in looking forward to a safe re-entry for educators, staff and students. School preparedness is always a concern at the beginning of school, and 2020 is no exception. Increased focus is placed on personal health items and cleaning supplies, and the WVDE will continue to work alongside of counties and schools to ensure these materials are in stock and available throughout the pandemic.
County superintendents and school principals have spent months ordering and acquiring supplies in preparation for the first day of school. When needed, the WVDE, West Virginia National Guard and West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources have tapped into a variety of supply lines to assist.
Berkeley County Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy says his team has addressed immediate needs to start the school year while also forecasting longer-term needs for ordering materials. “Our county has put in place a solid plan that is rooted in advance thinking and planning,” said Murphy. “This has allowed our county to be ready to go for the start of school.”
Herbert Hoover High School Principal Mike Kelley has developed systems and processes that monitor hallway traffic, social distancing, face coverings and constant sanitizing and cleaning. “We have supplies on hand, regardless of the situation. When we’ve needed something, we call the [Kanawha] county warehouse and it is delivered the next day,” said Kelley. Since the school is in a temporary location awaiting construction of its new building, shared congregant space has been prepared and will be safely and appropriately used by several clusters of students throughout the day.
At George Washington High School, Principal Dr. George Aulenbacher has sent daily video messages to his teachers and staff to update them on re-entry progress. “I found it was an effective way to share important details about our school re-entry efforts,” Aulenbacher said. “The communication helps to alleviate concerns and makes sure we are all on the same page.”
“We have spent every day since March 13th working to address the needs of our school community. When issues are brought to our attention, we make the necessary connections to assist in addressing the needs,” said State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “We have been in constant communication with our county offices and school administrators and asked if they needed additional supplies. Most often the answer was, ‘no.’ But if a problem existed, we worked to fix it.”
The Department has provided more than $91 million to counties in COVID-19 relief funds and counties self-designated $14 million of those dollars for cleaning and health-related supplies. Beyond the currently available materials, the WVDE will continue to ensure classroom items are replenished.
In addition to the funds already distributed to counties, Governor Justice announced today that he is placing $50 million of CARES Act money into a special fund for PPE, cleaning supplies and, if the need arises, additional testing at schools. This, along with existing resources, will provide schools with the assurance that their needs will be met for the duration of the school year.
Corporate neighbors have also stepped in to help. A donation from Highmark West Virginia has made $500,000 worth of classroom kits and student supplies available to public schools. This means that 260,000 students and 40,000 school personnel will receive hand sanitizers, face coverings and other supplies during the first week of school.
County and school leaders are strongly encouraged to maintain ongoing communication with educators and staff members about delivery schedules for supplies as the year progresses.
For more information, contact Christy Day at the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications at 304-558-2699 or Christy.Day@k12.wv.us.
For information about COVID-19, please visit www.coronavirus.wv.gov or wvde.us/COVID19.