Difficult decision ahead for parents of school-aged children

TAYLOR COUNTY— With just roughly seven weeks to go before the proposed start date of the 2020-2021 school year, officials with the Taylor County Board of Education have been closely monitoring the latest updates and changes to guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as they continue to finalize a safe re-entry plan for Taylor County students amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

According to Taylor County Superintendent of Schools Christy Miller, the county’s Re-Entry Task Force, as well as building level administrators and leadership teams have been working since June to develop county and school level plans addressing guidelines shared by the West Virginia Department of Education in their re-entry toolkit, and the CDC.

Miller shared that the toolkit is currently being amended to adopt the latest guidelines from the CDC’s most recent update that occurred on July 23.

“This includes cleanliness, distancing, food service, special education, transportation, CTE and extracurriculars including sports,” she noted.

Since it seems as if COVID-19 is far from over, with the county seeing an increase in positive test results and guidelines being changed, many Taylor County parents are being faced with a very difficult decision; do they send their children back to school for face to face instruction, or enroll them in a virtual learning program?

For clarification, when it comes virtual or remote learning, Miller explained that remote learning will only occur if the state’s governor closes a school or county based on metrics that are being put together with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

“It will be a consultation with local health departments, the metrics being developed and the governor. Those metrics are to be available no later than August 14,” added Miller.

Whereas, virtual learning is an option for parents and students who have reservations about returning to face to face instruction.

“Virtual Learning is when the student is enrolled as a county student and chooses to receive their education online through an approved virtual school provider,” Miller shared. “Taylor County will be using the West Virginia Virtual School through the West Virginia Department of Education for grades 6-12, where instructors will be certified teachers, but will not be our local educators. Students in grades K-5 will receive their virtual school by a Taylor County teacher using appropriate grade level Taylor County curriculum.”

In addition, the K-5 program is online as well, with devices provided by the county to any enrolled student in grades K-12 that choose to participate.

Those wishing to opt for virtual schooling will be able to enroll their student later this month and based on the September 8 start date, will have until September 14 to determine whether or not they want their student to continue to participate in the program.

After September 14, any student enrolled in virtual learning will be required to stay in the program until the end of the first semester, which as of now is slated for January 14,2021. At that time, any student who would like to opt out of the virtual program may do so, and return to school or vise versa.

For parents and students who are hoping to return back to the classroom this fall, Miller revealed that the daily routine in school will look a little different for each grade level.

While the school day schedule is heavily dependent on which tier of the previously released Tiered System they’ll be operating on, Miller divulged in some of the changes students and parents should expect upon return.

All students will have their temperatures checked upon entering the building to rule out any possible fevers, which is a common symptom of COVID-19.

Additionally, all Taylor County students, as well as staff and administration will be required to wear face masks or face coverings.

“It is nearly impossible to practice the recommended distancing guidelines on our busses or in many of the classrooms, which would require the use of a mask or face covering. The board’s number one goal is the safety of our students and staff at all times,” Miller voiced.

And although students will be still be permitted to have access to the schools’ libraries, and will be able to take part in elective classes such as art, music and physical education, extra precautions will be taken to ensure the health and safety of all students.

Miller also responded to questions about younger students being able to have a recess during their day, saying that recess would in fact be an option for students and will be conducted in a safe manner with all precautions in place to protect staff and students.

She further described the changes in the daily routine of a Taylor County student noting that with the county’s elementary schools, students will remain with their classrooms throughout the day with staff members moving about when needed, instead of students. This will be the same practice through grade six.

Students in grades 7-12 will be permitted to change classes, but will be expected to keep their face mask or face covering on in the hallways and during any times of movement of large groups of students.

Furthermore, field trips will not be taken this year and visitors will be taken on a case by case basis as identified in the Tiered plan.  

Meanwhile, breakfast and lunch times for students will also be conducted in a different manner with planning for such still in progress.

“Taylor County Board of Education Nutritionist Donette Nines has met with each principal to discuss their plans to provide food service to our students,” revealed Miller. “They have discussed how students will be able to eat in the cafeteria in shifts or in alternative places, not the classroom, to continue to provide healthy meals in our schools.”

She further shared that when it comes to school breakfast, students will be offered a grab and go option to take to their classrooms after entering the building; gathering in the cafeteria in the mornings has been eliminated.

With a tough choice at hand for parents and guardians, the Taylor County Board of Education has recently released a short survey that will give them a better idea of how many families are considering virtual options for the upcoming school year.

“This survey does not bind anyone to participation in face to face or virtual, it is simply for planning purposes of staff and device needs,” Miller clarified.

Those who have not done so yet are urged to completed the survey at their earliest possible convenience.

The survey can be found by entering the following link, https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=S7AZ4AwzekaLrgn7FzdNamjiA56OqyVHoeRkcPzcIMRUQ0xLN0xQUlJLRDJOU0RMNElFNEpUV1FXUS4u.

The link can also be found by visiting the Taylor County Schools,WV Facebook page at, https://www.facebook.com/taylorcountyschoolswv.

Alternately, anyone that is unable to complete the questionnaire online, may contact Linda Casto by phone at 304-265-2497 ext. 1123, between 8:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., daily. Casto is also available to answer any questions parents or caregivers might have regarding virtual learning and can also be reached  via email at, [email protected].

“Taylor County Schools and all of those with the Taylor County Board of Education understand the many decisions that must be made for families to feel comfortable in choosing an option for the upcoming school year. We will continue to work on plans for a safe and healthy return of staff and students. We will also continue to provide updates on our county and school websites and social media sites,” Miller commented. “We want our families to make informed decisions, and I hope that sharing this information will assist in that process.”


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