Ashby asks questions for parents, teachers in regard to school opening

Staff Writer
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Mineral Daily News-Tribune

By Liz Beavers

Tribune Managing Editor

KEYSER - As students, staff and administrators struggle to move forward into an unprecedented year for education, newly-elected Mineral County Board of Education member Donnie Ashby said a lot of questions remain in the minds of parents and employees alike.

School is scheduled to start on Tuesday for students, but administrators, teachers and service personnel have been hard at work for some time getting ready for a hybrid of in-class and virtual classes.

Ashby said several have reached out to him with questions, and he, in turn, took those questions to superintendent Troy Ravenscroft.

“As a board member, I feel I was elected to serve the people of this county,” he told the News Tribune.

Below are some of the questions, complete with answers from the superintendent, which Ashby provided to the News Tribune.

Questions from parents:

1. Parents were told they would receive devices to help with virtual learning. When will this happen?

Answer: Devices are at the schools; they will get them during orientation week if they indicated the need. We may have some shifting of devices as the number at every school doesn’t necessarily match the need. We have enough countywide, but school inventories don’t necessarily match each school’s need.

2. Where are the hotspots going to be located and when will they be accessible?

Answers: Schools and public libraries by Sept. 8, expanding thereafter.

3. Who is training the parents in Schoolology?

Answer: School staff. Every school has at least one Schoolology trainer.

4. Why are some parents being allowed to change their kid’s schedules while others are not?

Answers: Depends on the circumstances - some students have requirements in IEPs or possibly they requested to change their days and it would have made one class too large.

Questions from teachers:

1. Who is making the decisions on what teachers are getting to be virtual?

Answers: All decisions for staffing start with student needs, school needs, and schedules. This was easy at some schools, extremely difficult at others.

2. I am hearing that some of the virtual teachers will be working from home. If I am an in-person teacher and I get sick, I am required to use a personnel day. So what do virtual teachers do? Are they exempt?

Answer: Virtual teachers will have firm expectations for keeping hours and be required at least 20 of their hours of in-person, in the building reporting, which must be flexible to accommodate parents. If they are sick and unable to report, they would need to use a day like any other teacher.

3. Why are in-person teachers being told that they also must teach five-day virtual students? … We should be loading our virtual teachers instead of asking in-person teachers to teach virtually.

Answer: We had to look at this building-by-building for the most part, and work across buildings to make it work. In some cases we had to ask teachers to be fully virtual, in other cases we had to tell them they couldn’t be. It was a matter of accommodating students first. In many cases their in-person numbers were extremely small, and they still have small overall numbers.

Questions about the buildings:

1. Principals were told buildings would be marked for social distancing. When and who is doing this?

Answer: Custodians have been instructed to do it, and to let Jay (Harris, assistant director of support services - facilities and grounds) know if they need any help to get it done before Friday.

2. Water is supposed to be supplied for the kids instead of using water fountains. When will this be delivered to schools?

Answer: The schools have their bottled water now.

3. As board members and superintendent, we need to let the county know our plans for schools. I personally feel that our neighboring counties are going four or five days a week; I believe that if they stay safe, we need to be headed that way by the end of September.

Answer: I sincerely hope we can move to more in-person school sooner than later if conditions allow.