‘Classrooms are safe’: West Virginia students to head back to class

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The West Virginia State Board of Education voted unanimously to send Mountain State students back to the classroom full-time.

The decision was influenced largely by Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s COVID-19 Czar, who called in to Tuesday’s meeting.

According to Marsh, the county transmission rate map issued daily by state health officials does not effectively reflect transmission in the classroom.

Marsh says while it’s been used for months to determine in-class versus on-line learning – the state had it wrong.

“The pre-k-8 grade is safe to have 5 days a week from a medically scientific perspective,” he said.

“That’s why we did what we did because he gave us science-based research,” said West Virginia School Board President Miller Hall.

Masks and at least 3 feet of social distancing are the most effective measures for reducing the spread of COVID-19, said Marsh, even more so than special air filters, classroom sanitation, and opening windows.

But not everyone was hoping for this outcome.

Dale Miller with the WVEA and Fred Albert with the West Virginia AFT wanted decisions on in-person instruction left to the discretion of local school boards who “know their communities better.”

“The idea that they don’t want to work, there’s just no truth to that, they’re working now in different ways and sometimes in harder ways than they’ve worked before,” said Albert.

As for grades 9-12, the board only issued a “recommendation” that high schools return to in-person learning.

Marsh says transmission rates for the older age group closely mirror the transmission rates in the communities those schools serve.

“Our professionals have given a lot and we need to continue to work with them but we also need to get our students back in class because so many students are suffering irreparable harm,” said Tom Campbell, West Virginia School Board Vice President.

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