CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The West Virginia Education Association is urging the West Virginia State Board of Education to take more action to protect students, faculty and staff as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in West Virginia.
WVEA President Dale Lee gave remarks at the state BOE meeting earlier today, Wednesday, Sept. 8. His first point was to request the return of the color-coded map the West Virginia Department of Education used last year, suggesting when a county goes to orange or red, mask requirements be implemented in those counties. Lee says this is due to the high rates of positive cases as well as numerous quarantine-related absences for students and staff.
As of today, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ County Alert System map, which does not have an affect on schools, has 44 of the state’s 55 counties in red and eight counties are in orange.
This week, all schools in Clay County, which is in red, are on remote learning due to the are on remote learning due to COVID-19 and when the schools do return to in-person learning, masks will be required indoors and on buses for all staff and Pre-K through 12th-grade students, according to the county board of education’s website.
The WVEA is also requesting school employees not be required to use their own personal and sick days should they be required to quarantine. Lee said he suggested instead some of the counties’ ARP funds, which exist for similar occurrances, be set aside for incidences of quarantine or positive cases.
Lee also said he asked that some of those ARP funds also be set aside to help educators taking on extra workloads by teaching both in-person and online courses.
“We ask the WVDE to require counties to offer stipends for those employees,” Lee said. “Our educators are working every day to ensure our students continue to receive high-quality instruction. We ask the WVDE to make our educators a priority in receiving any vaccine boosters.”
The WVEA’s requests come as the state surpassed 22,000 active COVID-19 cases. This is nearly quadrupled from the recent low reported just two months ago on July 9. Then, the state’s active cases were only at 882. The state also hit a new record today with the highest percent positivity rate of COVID-19 this year at 17.96%.
“I understand that this pandemic has created a divide in our citizens, but we should all be committed to providing a safe and healthy environment at school for our students, employees, and their families,” Lee said. “Our educators are doing a great job and we need to take every health precaution that we can. We should be doing all we can to ensure in-person learning and to assist our school employees as they work to provide a high-quality education for all of our students.”