WV Department of Education details return to school and vaccine rollout

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY)- Following an announcement from Governor Jim Justice, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) has revised its guidance regarding in-person instruction effective Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The changes will provide a more consistent, in-person teaching and learning model for West Virginia children.

Beginning Jan. 19, students in grades pre-K through 8 will return to in-person learning five days each week. Students in grades 9 through 12 will also return to in-person instruction five days each week as long as their county is not red. Special allowances will be given for four-day learning models in counties whose teachers are providing direct virtual learning instruction to their own students.

From Jan. 4 through Jan. 15, counties will move to remote learning, and educators will use this two-week period to prepare for the return to in-person instruction. Families have the option to keep their children in virtual learning regardless of changes to in-person instruction.

The revisions mean the WVDE’s Saturday Education Map will no longer be published and, instead, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) County Alert System Map will guide high school in-person instruction.

Additionally, Governor Jim Justice announced winter sports and extracurricular activities are postponed until March 1.

State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch said children need to return to in-person instruction, and when key mitigation strategies are followed, it safe for them to do so.

“The research shows it is safe to restore the in-person learning model for parents that chose this option for the children,” said Superintendent Burch. “We also know students are suffering because of the lack of in-person instruction. CPS referrals have decreased, student social and emotional well-being has suffered, and one-third of our students have received failing grades in at least one core subject area. We simply have to get our students back in school, in-person.”

“The Governor understands the data is undeniable,” Superintendent Burch said.  “I fully support this decision because we know that heightened transmission rates experienced in communities are not reflected within the schools because of the mitigations in place.”

To launch school recovery efforts, the WVDE has worked in conjunction with Governor Justice, the National Guard and DHHR to establish a timeline for the vaccine rollout for all West Virginia school employees age 50 and older. County superintendents will provide additional details for their school personnel regarding vaccine administration.