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Cabell County schools grapple with changing guidance

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Huntington, WV (WOWK) — A growing concern among families across the United States as the summer wears on has not spared the Mountain State: will schools reopen? And, when?

It has been a long road for teachers this summer, beginning back in March when they initially had to close.

Cabell County Schools Superintendent Ryan Saxe says trying to create a safety plan and stick with it is like trying to hit a moving target.

“This has been an ever-changing obstacle,” Saxe said.

Summer is wearing on, and so is the coronavirus pandemic.

The challenges are continuing to mount, including the growing uncertainty of what the school year will look like for millions of kids across the country.

In Cabell County, the pressure from the federal government to open schools this fall is a concern.

“What we have to be able to do is again, develop plans for our parents and our families that give them options for their children … while we’re also balancing the safety and well-being of our students and the safety and health of our staff!  That’s not something you can do overnight.” 

Ryan Saxe, Cabell County Schools Superintendent

The guidelines for how to keep students safe are ever-evolving, but this is something the Cabell County Board of Education is trying to take into account.

The district has been getting input from several sources.  

Huntington High School Sophomore Sophie Eastone, was part of a student advisory council, and was able to raise concerns unique to her classmates.

“The superintendent asked us what we thought about everything and he took our feedback into account and it was really helpful during that time,” Eastone said.

Those concerns include the challenges that come with virtual learning, as well as best practices to keep everyone safe.

“We all know we’re gonna do the safest thing possible because we don’t know, and we don’t want to get sick.”  

Sophie Eastone, Huntington High School Sophomore

Some of these practices on the table include having masks available to all students, providing face shields to teachers, and a new plastic desk covering.

“A desk divider system, where it’s really light but it’s plastic and it sits about this tall and actually encompasses the desk so that students can carry it with them between classes,” Saxe said.

As far as the plan for this school year, it’s still anyone’s guess where this pandemic will be in September.

“We did receive a fairly decent size of money to help be able to address those concerns, but we also know that it’s not going to be enough in order to sustain the support mechanisms and even to expand upon some of those support mechanisms that we’re going to need to have for the entirety of the school year.”

Ryan Saxe, Cabell County Schools Superintendent

One of the things that Saxe and others are addressing in upcoming plans is how to keep schools clean.

They are planning to hire 12 additional custodians as well as 24 part-time licensed practical nurses across the county to keep up with saftey guidelines.

All of this, however, is still for the board to put to a vote—and that’s scheduled to happen this Thursday at 5:30 pm.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said state education leaders are now targeting September eighth as the official reopening date; this leaves less than two months for school boards to put safety protocols in place.

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