Start of 2020-2021 school year to look different than years past

TAYLOR COUNTY— After consulting with West Virginia’s medical experts, Governor Jim Justice made some modifications to the School Re-Entry Metrics, color-coded mapping system that determines the level of openness for all PreK-12 schools in the state.

“We listened to the experts and we came up with something that was revolutionary,” Justice announced. “This is something that no one in the nation has come up with; our color coding system. We also said, again the way, we would listen and be fluid. We’ve stayed in contact and we decided that we needed to pivot just a little bit.”

According to the update from Justice, the metric system will continue to be based off of each county’s number of new daily cases per 100,000 people, over a seven day rolling average.

As previously released, the system will assign each county a color; green, yellow, orange or red. The assigned color will represent the severity of the rate of spread of the Coronavirus with a community. However, following the guidance of the state’s medical professionals, the numbers of cases for each color stage have changed a bit.

When the system was initially released, green would identify the counties with fewer than 8 cases, yellow identified those counties with eight-15 cases, the range for orange was 16-24 cases, and red was anything 25 cases and above per 100,000 people.

While the threshold for red has not changed, orange is now 10-24 cases, yellow has been changed to three to nine cases and green will be those counties with three or fewer cases; again these numbers are based on new daily cases per 100,000 people on a seven day rolling average.

Governor Justice clarified that in the event of an outbreak within a contained location, such as a jail, prison or nursing home. Any positive residents or images will still only count as one positive case toward the metric. The reasoning for this is the confinement of these individuals, as they are unable to contribute to further community spread.

In the matter of staff members at such facilities, the number of positive staff members will now each count as one full positive toward the school metric, since these individuals could potentially add to community spread.

Here in Taylor County, we have recently experienced outbreaks in churches and at Rosewood Nursing facility moving the county out of the green category and into yellow. This was updated  as of press time on Tuesday.

Falling under the yellow category means that students who wish to do so, may return to face-to-face learning, under the Taylor County Board of Education’s selection; Tier 3.

According to the West Virginia Department of Education’s website, schools within a county that is labeled yellow, may resume and it is up to local education leaders to work with county health departments to determine increased mitigation measures such as: requiring masks for grades three and above in congregant settings where social distancing is limited; increasing hand washing and hygiene protocols; increasing student cohorting by limiting exposure outside of core groups; limiting activities where social distancing is not feasible; increasing community engagement to prevent escalation of disease.

Earlier this month, during a board meeting, it was decided by the Taylor County BOE, that the safest way to reintroduce face-to-face learning would be to operate on Tier 3,for at least the first nine week grading period.

Superintendent of Taylor County Schools, Christy Miller, explained that through returning on Tier 3, students are in a schedule that blends time spent at school and at home while practicing their learning. This blended solution was chosen to reduce time spent in larger groups, as well as to reduce the possibility for cross contamination in order to provide additional time for sanitizing and to assist in mitigating risks associated with the Coronavirus.

For students whose parents have chosen face-to-face instruction the start of school is just about three weeks away, and will be a little different than the typical first day of school .

According to Linda Casto, Director of Instruction/Curriculum, Taylor County schools will open on Tuesday, September 8, on a staggered start.

She noted that through this form of re-entry, only those students whose last names begin with letters A-L and are in grades 2,4,6,8,10 and 12 will report on September 8.

On Wednesday, September 9, students with last names beginning with letters M-Z in grades 2,4,6,8,10 and 12 will report to school.

This same approach will be taken the remainder of the week, as students whose last names begin with letters A-L in grades1,3,5,7,9 and 11 will report to school on Thursday, September 10, while those in the odd number grades, with last names beginning with letters M-Z will finish out the week, reporting on Friday, September 11.

“Our Tier 3 program will officially begin the following Monday, on September 14, where grades one to 12 will report on their planned days,” Casto explained.

After the first staggered start week is over, and Tier 3 is officially in place, begging on Monday, September 14, students in grades one-12 whose last names begin with letters A-L will appear for in person learning at the school they are enrolled in, on Mondays and Tuesdays. Thursdays and Fridays will be distance learning for this group. Distance learning will be taught by their Taylor County teacher.

The second group, which consists of students in graded one-12, whose last names begin with the letters M-Z will start their school year out with distance learning on Monday September 14. From there every Monday and Tuesday will be their distance learning days, and they will report to the school building for in person learning on Thursdays and Fridays.

Wednesday has been designated at a distance learning day for all students and will be utilized as an additional day for sanitation and deep cleaning of all of the schools.

Whether you’ve chosen this type of blended learning or a complete virtual option for your child, the Taylor County Board of Education is requiring all students to be registered for the choice that has been selected.

Registration can be completed by visiting, , or by calling 304-265-2497 ext. 1150 between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. All registrations must be submitted by 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, August 20.

“We again want to thank the community, families, students and staff for their support as difficult decisions and plans are made to support the learning of our students. Together we are Taylor County strong,” voiced Miller.

*Please note that the situation surrounding the state’s color-coded metric system and the return to school is extremely fluid and is likely to continue changing. Our staff at the Mountain Statesman is dedicated to keeping the community up-to-date on any and all changes that will be made along the way. We appreciate your understanding and support.


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