Mercer County students return for in-person learning

OAKVALE, WV (WOAY) – Students in Mercer County have returned to the classroom for the spring semester.

It’s part of an initiative from Governor Jim Justice to put students back in the classrooms. As part of that initiative, Pre-K-8 schools are not permitted to have full remote learning, they must be at least on a blended model, with the state enforcing students to be in the classroom at least two days per week.

At Oakvale Elementary School in Mercer County, faculty and staff say they’re excited to have the students back in-person.

“Today we started back in-person learning with 50% of our students and everyone has just been so excited to be back. Students were excited to see their friends and be back at school on a normal day,” said Principal Lacosta Hodges.

As of January 19, Mercer County is gold on the state’s COVID-19 school recovery map, which according to the Mercer County Board of Education, means elementary students will be in-person five days a week.

According to Hodges, parents in the Oakvale area have not issued any public concerns about students returning to the classroom. 

At Oakvale and other schools, students are returning to their classrooms, but with some changes that encourage social distancing and safe activity.

“We spent a lot of time during remote learning to prepare for today and for this week, and students have been excited to come back to changes in the classrooms.”

All students in Mercer County at all grade levels will be learning at least on a blended model for the spring semester, with the exception of high school students, which will learn remotely if the county turns red.

In the future, the board of education is hoping that enough employees will eventually receive the COVID vaccine, in which case they may reevaluate their re-entry plans. 

According to the West Virginia Department of Education, families have the option to keep their children in virtual learning, regardless of changes to in-person instruction.

The full Mercer County re-entry plan is dependent on the state’s COVID-19 school recovery map, and is as follows:

Green: Elementary students attend five days a week. Middle and high school students attend five days a week after Mercer County’s incidence and positivity rates have fallen below 3.0 for two full weeks.

Yellow or Gold: Elementary students attend five days a week. Middle and high school students follow Blended Model B (50% attend each day).

Orange: All students follow Blended Model B.

Red: Elementary and middle school students follow Blended Model B. High school students are remote.