CHARLESTON, W.VA. – The West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) met this week in emergency session to discuss the counties that continue to remain closed to in-person learners. Only three of West Virginia’s 55 counties have failed to offer this option.

Upon the review of data from local and national health officials and Governor Jim Justice’s Executive Order permitting schools to return to in-person instruction, the WVBE issued updated requirements for in-person instruction options during its last regular meeting (January 13th).

To monitor this progress, the WVBE requires State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch to submit a report each Monday updating each county’s in-person instruction status.

“Our children, families, communities and our state need to have students physically present in schools to benefit from all of the supports the education system offers,” said WVBE President Miller Hall. “Our schools are safe and it is time that we move to consistent in-person instruction to protect, address and advance the academic, social/emotional and developmental well-being of our children.”

“We have to give our families the option to return to school in-person,” said Superintendent Burch. “We are hearing overwhelmingly from families, communities, educators and others about the dire need to return children to the classroom in-person, and we have to respond. It is our duty to provide an equitable and quality education to our families. In-person instruction is the best means to ensure students’ academic and extended needs are being addressed and that more consistent instructional delivery is achieved.”  

Nothing in the WVBE’s action to require an in-person learning option deprives local decision making to close individual schools when warranted. Counties are expected to continue to work with their local health departments to suspend in-person learning for specific classrooms or schools if specific health needs related to that classroom or school are identified irrespective of the county’s color on the DHHR County Alert System Map.

The Board has also instructed the State Superintendent, WVDE staff, and all county-level education leaders to continue to provide educational information about the benefit and safety of the COVID vaccination to teachers, education staff, community members and residents throughout the state.

The WVBE will meet again on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, 10:00 a.m. in a special meeting to consider action against counties that continue to choose to not comply with the WVBE’s January 13, 2021, action.

“To date I have not heard a justifiable reason for these counties to not offer an in-person option.” said WVBE Vice President Tom Campbell. “If that does not change, I am prepared to take action on the 26th.”

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