Governor Justice announces return to in-person school by Jan. 19

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Gov. Jim Justice

CHARLESTON - West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice made the surprise announcement at his daily virtual press briefing Wednesday that beginning on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, all West Virginia elementary and middle schools will reopen to in-person learning five days each week.

All high schools will also return to in-person instruction five days each week, as long as their county is not Red in the DHHR County Alert System map.

“We have got to get our kids back in school,” Gov. Justice said. “During 2020 we learned that COVID-19 transmission rates in our schools during the first semester was 0.02 percent among students and 0.3 percent among staff. Our schools are safe when guidelines are followed.

“We also learned, when we switched learning modes to virtual learning, the outcomes are not good,” he said. “One-third of our students are receiving failing grades in at least one of their core classes. The virtual learning models do not work for many students without consistent, live engagement from a teacher.

“Also the DHHR reports that there is a reduction in child protective services referrals by an average of 50 to 54 percent per month,” Justice continued. “We've got a bunch of kids that are out there, really suffering. So we must get back in school.”

From Jan. 4, 2021, through Jan. 15, 2021, counties will move to remote learning, and educators will use this two-week period to prepare for the return to in-person instruction. Families have the option to keep their children in virtual learning, regardless of changes to in-person instruction.

The revisions mean the WVDE’s Saturday Education Map will no longer be published and, instead, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) County Alert System Map will guide high school in-person instruction.

Additionally, Gov. Justice announced that winter sports and extracurricular activities are postponed until March 1, 2021.

“The research shows it is safe to restore the in-person learning model for parents that chose this option for the children,” State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch said. “We also know students are suffering because of the lack of in-person instruction. CPS referrals have decreased, student social and emotional well-being has suffered, and one-third of our students have received failing grades in at least one core subject area. We simply have to get our students back in school, in-person.

“The Governor understands the data is undeniable,” Superintendent Burch continued. “I fully support this decision because we know that heightened transmission rates experienced in communities are not reflected within theschools because of the mitigations in place.”