By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - A total of 1,500 Mineral County students have been registered for remote learning as opposed to physically being in the classroom this year.
Mineral County Schools superintendent Troy Ravenscroft told the board of education members this week that the enrollment period for remote learning ran Aug. 8-14, and county staff will be contacting "every single parent" who signed their children up to confirm their choice.
Although the period to sign up is over, parents who have already signed up may still decide to opt out and have their children go to class.
Of the $1,500 students enrolled for remote learning, approximately 80-90 are pre-k/Head Start students, and they will pose a particularly difficult problem in developing out-of-classroom methods of teaching.
"It will not be as much virtual learning as it will be distance learning," Ravenscroft said, explaining that teachers will develop materials that can be sent home to the students as opposed to expecting the younger ones to utilize a computer.
Ravenscroft said the entire process of planning for the "blended" approach, in which some students are learning at home and some will be in class on staggered schedules, has been difficult.
"There’s going to be challenges, but we’ll do our best," he said. "With the board support and staff, we will make it all happen," he assured them.
For those students who do plan to physically be in class, a staggered system has been developed in which students will be separated into two groups. Group A will attend in-person on Monday and Tuesday and virtually on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and Group B will be online on Monday and Tuesday and attend classes in-person on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Ravenscroft said with the three scenarios - all remote, Group A and Group B - it’s been like planning for three separate school districts.
For the first day of school for teachers, which has traditionally included bringing everyone together for opening speakers, Ravenscroft said he would be delivering a video message to the faculty, which would be "spread out at all our schools."
Ravenscroft also made note of the statewide color-coding system established by the West Virginia DHHR, which assigns each county a color based on the seven-day average of COVID-19 positives per 100,000 population.
The color assigned to each county ranges from green (three or fewer cases) to red (25+ cases), and determines whether that county can proceed with in-person classes and athletic activities or close down the schools and go fully remote.
"Right now, we are in the yellow, which means a heightened awareness," he said Tuesday. "But in the course of two hours today we went from yellow to green and back to yellow."
On Friday, Mineral County was back to green.
And just as the colors can change, so can Mineral County’s approach to the learning process.
For example, Ravensroft said, "If we’re seeing positive trends, we could merge groups A and B together.
"Just because we’re in the plan doesn’t mean we’re stuck. The pendulum could definitely go either way."