At their meeting Tuesday, August 25, the Cabell County Board of Education approved Superintendent Ryan Saxe’s recommendation to update the district’s 2020 student re-entry plan. The changes are in response to input received from the school community during the past week as well as the district’s daily monitoring of current COVD-19 cases in Cabell County.
Cabell students will return to school beginning September 8, 2020, as directed by Governor Jim Justice and the West Virginia Department of Education. All students will begin the school year utilizing only the Blended Learning or Virtual Learning options. This schedule will continue until at least the end of the first semester. At that point, the plan will be reevaluated by the Superintendent and Board of Education and a decision will be made as to what instructional options will be available for second semester.
Under the revised re-entry plan, students will begin the school year September 8 in a staggered manner, with students with last names beginning with the letters A-K reporting Tuesday and Wednesday and students with last names beginning with the letters L-Z reporting Thursday and Friday.
- Beginning the week of September 14, students with last names beginning with the letters A-K will attend Monday and Tuesday.
- Students with the last names beginning with the letters L-Z will attend Thursday and Friday.
- All students will be learning remotely (from home) on Wednesdays to allow for cleaning.
- Staff will report to their worksites on all days, whether in-person or remote, on a regular schedule.
“By moving to the Blended and Virtual learning schedules, we understand we are inconveniencing parents who chose the five-day in-person option, and we apologize for the difficulty we know this will cause,” says Ryan Saxe, Superintendent of Cabell County Schools. “At the same time, Cabell County has been teetering on the edge of yellow and orange on the Department and Health and Human Resources COVID-19 tracking map for several weeks. Combined with the return of Marshall University students and what we are witnessing at public schools that have already returned elsewhere in the nation, we have to combine the of returning to five-day, face-to-face instruction with the reality of what is occurring in our community. If we don’t institute more social distancing and cleaning protocols from the beginning of the school year, we believe fully opening our buildings would quickly result in our district once again having to move completely to remote instruction.”
Superintendent Saxe says the district’s planning process for beginning the school year began the day schools were closed by the Governor in March. Ever since, the plan has been updated, based on increasing knowledge about the spread of coronavirus, data about Cabell County positive cases and parent and staff input.
“I anticipate that, until there is a vaccine, our plan will continue to evolve and change in order to meet the needs of the moment,” says Mr. Saxe. “In order to assist the district in making decisions, we have reached an agreement with Marshall Health to provide us with a pediatric healthcare expert to serve as our Chief Health Officer, Dr. Andrea Lauffer. Dr. Lauffer will be in daily contact with officials at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department and will be providing our leadership team and Board guidance until this pandemic is over and we can return to more normal way of operating.”
Superintendent Saxe says the district has implemented extensive safety measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 including purchasing desk shields for students, advanced disinfecting devices for school buildings and buses, masks for students who have one and face shields for teachers. In addition, each school has been making extensive plans for social distancing within their buildings, utilizing a district-provided checklist.
Once it is decided it is safe to fully implement the district’s updated color code system, the leadership team will still be very cautious in its approach to further reopening schools. If the Department of Health and Human Resources updates the color code for Cabell County, indicating an improvement in community transmission, the district will only move to that color code if it remains consistent for two weeks.
“In-person learning is, by far, the best way for children to receive instruction,” adds Superintendent Saxe. “We also know students receive other vital services and social and emotional support from school staff and other caring adults. Our goal is to move Cabell County toward green on the DHHR map so we can have in-person instruction for every student every day. The only way that is ever going to happen is if we take a slow, steady and safe approach to reopening.”