CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia judge on Tuesday denied an attempt by teachers unions to halt the state’s decision to reopen classrooms last week amid the pandemic.
Kanawha County Judge Carrie Webster denied a temporary restraining order that sought to reverse the resumption of in-person learning in all 55 counties. The two largest unions wanted local school boards to decide reopening plans and allow more teachers to become fully vaccinated before going back to teach.
The West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia had filed two separate lawsuits that were later consolidated.
“While we’re disappointed with the decision, the judge did make a point of saying educators are at greater risk during this pandemic,” Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said in a statement. “Decisions to teach in-person, remotely, hybrid and online should be a local decision, made by those who are the most impacted and who best understand how to best educate students safely.”
The unions had said it is unsafe to put teachers and workers back in classrooms as coronavirus cases still climb.
All 55 counties are complying with the State Board of Education’s mandate for in-person instruction after three counties that were resisting last week changed course.
Elementary, middle and high schools went back to face-to-face learning in most of the state last week, although some counties didn’t go back to high school due to the severe spread of COVID-19 in the area.
The state began vaccinating school workers and teachers aged 50 and older in early January.