Mineral BOE approves blended school return plan

KEYSER, W.Va. — Mineral County’s school reopening plan calls for a blended return to schools that will include both in-person and virtual learning.

Superintendent Troy Ravenscroft presented the plan to members of the Board of Education Tuesday, noting that the “plan may be adapted” and is subject to change.

The plan calls for students in two groups to each attend two days a week in person and three days a week virtually. One group will go to school in person on Monday and Tuesday and the other on Thursday and Friday.

“Wednesday will be scheduled for in-depth cleaning,” Ravenscroft said.

The superintendent said the detailed plan is the safest and most manageable option and also the one most parents have said they believe is the safest.

“I understand there are likely to be many questions and discussions,” he said. “But I also know everyone wants to be safe.”

There is also an all-virtual option for families that request it. Deadline to register for that program is Aug. 14.

The superintendent pointed out that school boards in West Virginia were required to adopt a plan even if it is subject to change.

Board member Mary Jane Baniak emphasized that the board was not voting to approve the plan as written but accept the requirement of having an in-person plan.

“We will follow the science and the data,” she said.

Board member Tom Denne commented that the COVID-19 trend of cases and deaths “has not been great over the summer.”

Ravenscroft agreed, saying that he and A. Jay Root, administrator of the Mineral County Health Department, “have talked more times than we would like.”

The superintendent also emphasized that the plan was not developed without help. He said there were many individuals and groups that had input in the effort. 

“We did the best we could under the conditions,” he said.

The plan includes recommendations for masks, hygiene, busing, minimizing crowding and other precautions to ensure the safety of students.

“I understand the governor (Jim Justice) is going to make an announcement tomorrow (Wednesday),” Ravenscroft said. “I don’t know what he is going to say.”

Also expressing concern Tuesday about West Virginia’s school reopening plans was Sen. Joe Manchin in a morning news appearance. He pointed out that rural states have a problem with students having access to high speed internet for virtual learning.

He said that he plans to work hard to get the internet that students need as soon as possible.

The state has been trying to get federal money for high speed internet expansion for several years.

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