WAYNE COUNTY, WV (WOWK) — It’s the ‘back-to-school’ time of year, and teachers are getting ready for the school year, even as COVID-19 numbers worsen.
Wayne County is currently in the red category on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources map, meaning there are high rates of infection and spread.
One teacher in the county says seeing this trend again is leaving them to wonder if this school year may be as turbulent as the last.
Erin Wellman, like many teachers this time of year, is busy getting her classroom ready for her students.
“[At] Buffalo Elementary, this is my first year. But I taught at Buffalo Middle School last year so only my second year teaching,” Wellman says.
Wellman says beginning her career as an educator during a pandemic was challenging.
“How can I be engaging, how can I interact with students without spreading COVID? And that was a big challenge for me… I mean we made it work, but it was definitely stressful.”
Which is why Wellman says she was looking forward to a normal year; but, with the county’s high rates of community spread, that outlook may be more uncertain.
“I was really hoping that last year was gonna be the crazy year, no more COVID, I really had high hopes. I still have high hopes, even though like you said that we’re red. I was really banking on this year being a normal year,” Wellman says.
She’s still planning for that, however, because she says the classroom is the most conducive place for learning.
“This is the best environment. I know that…if we have to go virtual, I completely understand that. But just being in the classroom, and if that means wearing a mask and following guidelines I think that’s just the best option,” Wellman says.
Not only do teachers need to worry about the safety of their students in terms of pandemic guidelines, but also that they’re staying on track in school after a year of shifting mandates and learning models.
“I want them to be prepared for the next grade, and I just want them to be learning what they should be learning. Under what circumstances, I’m not sure, but that’s my goal and my job is just to teach them and get them caught up,” Wellman says.
“Anything can change, like we learned last year, anything can change.”
Wayne County Schools are requiring masks to be worn on school buses, and on campuses while the county is in the orange or red category like it is currently.
This requirement would only lift if the county were in the gold category or better for three consecutive days.