Concerns in one rural WV county about returning to school

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LOGAN COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – “We are opening on January 19th,” said Governor Jim Justice in his COVID-19 briefing Monday.

West Virginia schools are opening back up again in one week.

“We certainly want to prioritize school,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, WV COVID-19 Czar. “We believe that’s very important for all of our students – that we can get back into the classroom.”

Almost a year into the pandemic, and we’re learning just how serious the virus is inside our schools.

“We have seen very little spread, as the Governor has said repeatedly and so have I and others, in the classroom,” said Dr. Marsh.

“We are still kind of waiting to see what their actual guidance will be,” said Jeremy Farley, the superintendent for Logan County Schools.

Farley says the Governor will release an executive order soon; and that – along with guidances from the State Board of Education – should help him and his board decide what to do for next week.

But there are concerns.

“Our numbers are significantly higher than what we’d like to see,” said Farley. “Our color on the chart is about 3 to 4 times what the state says is a risk factor. So there is some apprehension from not only board members, but members of the community, about going back to school 5 days a week at this point.”

Logan County was also the first to hit ‘red’ on the color-coded map; and the county has struggled with its numbers since.

“As a school system, we’ve been remote for over a month now,” said Farley.

A spike in positive cases after Thanksgiving forced the schools to go ‘all remote,’ and the students haven’t been back in the classroom since.

Farley says another concern is absences due to exposures. 

He says when the schools were in-person learning, teachers and students often had to be pulled out of class. 

Not because they were COVID-positive, but because of being exposed to the virus.

“Is that creating more chaos for the student?” asked Farley. “To go to school for a week or two and then have to be quarantined? And be learning online again anyway?”

And of course, being a rural county, there is a third concern.

“We’re at the point in the year that a lot of our students have fallen behind,” said Farley. “And it’s not a failure of the teachers. It’s not a failure of the students. It’s just the situation we’re in and we’re trying to overcome those barriers the best we can.”

Farley and his board are holding meetings both Tuesday and Thursday to discuss the new guidelines, and what is the best option for Logan County.

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