KEYSER - Mineral County Schools superintendent Troy Ravenscroft called the recent phased-in opening of schools “wacky” due to ongoing pandemic concerns, but said things have been going well despite all the changes that have had to be adopted by students and staff alike.

By Liz Beavers
lbeavers@newstribune.info
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Mineral County Schools superintendent Troy Ravenscroft called the recent phased-in opening of schools “wacky” due to ongoing pandemic concerns, but said things have been going well despite all the changes that have had to be adopted by students and staff alike.
“I thought our opening, as wacky as it was, went very well,” he told the Mineral County Board as they held their regular meeting this week.
Due to safety concerns related to the pandemic, schools opened in phases, with students divided into two groups - A and B - and each group reporting to school at a different time.
Students in Group A are attending classes in person on Mondays and Tuesdays and doing their work online Wednesday through Friday, and students in Group B are working virtually Monday through Wednesday and attending class on Thursdays and Fridays.
In addition, some parents chose to keep their children at home, and those students are doing their work online only.
Ravenscroft said many have seemed appreciative of the phased-in approach.
“I had a lot of folks tell me, COVID or no COVID, it would be nice to phase in our students all the time,” he said, noting that one benefit was that students going through orientation can do so in smaller groups, which seems to make it easier.
He praised both the staff and students for navigating the unique waters they find themselves in due to the pandemic, and said they and the administrators are working through different issues as they arise.
Of course one major issue has been the inability of some students to utilize the internet for their work, and Ravenscroft said he is working on “getting more hotspots, and not just static hotspots but ones we can hand out.”
He acknowledged, however, that the connectivity problem “is not always an economic issue, but it’s often just based on where we live.”
With schools opening their doors on Sept. 8, there has already been one positive COVID-19 case identified at Burlington Primary, and Ravenscroft said administrators continue to work closely with the Mineral County Health Department each day.
He noted that, in that particular case, the fact that students were being phased in proved to be an advantage again because the amount of people exposed to the positive was limited.
Should other exposures occur at Burlington or any school, Ravevenscroft said a classroom can be shut down or in extreme cases, the entire school is shut down.
In Burlington’s case, staff was able to deep clean the facility and reopen it the next day.
Ravenscroft also announced that today is a full day of school. While the calendars reflect an early dismissal for Sept. 18, the calendar was adjusted since the calendars were printed. There will undoubtedly be other adjustments, as well.
“We’ll just have to look at those as we move along,” he said.
Board members Terry Puffinburger, Donnie Ashby and Tom Denne all noted that they had visited various schools over the past week and although there were still many questions, there was also a positive atmosphere.
“All the staff at all the schools I saw were making the students feel welcome,” Puffinburger said, to which Denne added he had observed “a whole lot of positivity and enthusiasm” among students and teachers alike.
Ashby, explaining that he visited some of the schools with Ravenscroft and some on his own, noted that there are still a lot of questions but he enjoyed his visits. “I’d like to go again,” he said.
Mary Jane Baniak noted that “the students really seemed happy to be back,” and board president Lara Courrier commended the teachers for their hard work in making things work.
“I know it’s difficult to teach on two platforms (in class and online). I think our teachers are working harder than they ever have before and I want to let them know the board recognizes that,” she said.