Mineral County remaining with blended school for now
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - With Mineral County actually dipping to green status on the West Virginia DHHR COVID map twice this week, the members of the Mineral County Board of Education remain hesitant to bring students back to school for a full week.
“It’s the first we’ve been green since early October,” superintendent Troy Ravenscroft said.
With the county’s positivity numbers at 110 according to the health department on Tuesday, Mineral County had gone back up to yellow status by Wednesday.
Tuesday, Ravenscroft had announced that an official outbreak had occurred at Keyser Primary School, with two separate cases reported there.
According to the health department, an outbreak is declared when two or more confirmed cases among students or staff from separate households occur within a single classroom or group.
Ravenscroft remains optimistic, however, that the county numbers will continue to stay lower. “It looks like we’re going to stay around yellow/gold,” he said.
Ravenscroft and John Wilson, the county’s coordinator of school safety, believe the decline in cases may be due to less testing as county personnel are occupied more with vaccination clinics, but also because the school system is doing the right thing.
“We are doing what the CDC recommends,” Wilson said, noting that county schools, which remain on the A-B blended schedule, have been requiring masks and providing social distancing as much as the classrooms can accommodate with the space available.
And while the CDC has recently changed some of its recommendations, including a return to six-foot spacing while they had previously adjusted that downward to three feet, Wilson said the changes are “nothing new” from what Mineral County has been doing.
“They’re not earth shattering; it’s what we’re already doing,” he said.
Ravenscroft said he felt the blended schedule should therefore continue because - healthwise - it seems to be working.
“We’re good where we are,” board member Tom Denne said, adding that, with teachers and staff under the age of 40 not yet being vaccinated and most classrooms too small to allow for six feet of distance, “you’re asking for another explosion” of COVID cases if the students were to return full time.
Board member Donnie Ashby, however, who has been vocal about needing to get children back in the classroom full time as soon as possible, read a note he had received from a parent saying the blended schedule was not working for her child.
In addition, a parent spoke to the board via Zoom saying his third grader was also not doing well with the remote learning and had fallen behind.
“I want parents to know I’m hearing them,” Ashby said. “I understand what they’re going through.”
Before the board meeting ended Tuesday evening, he said he received yet another message from a parent asking when the students would return to four or five days a week.
“We all want to be back to four days and eventually five days a week,” Ravenscroft said. “That is the best way to do school for the education of a child.”
“I wish they could be back in school more too,” board vice president Mary Jane Baniak said. “I just ask for patience and understanding with our ever-changing situation.”
“I want all the families to know we can’t wait to get back to four days,” Ravenscroft said.