Education: Wood County Schools made right call on smoke

Wood County Schools officials had to make some difficult decisions in the wake of a massive industrial fire that spewed strong-smelling smoke into the air for more than a week last month. To their credit, they took heed of both the fears of parents and the possibility that an abundance of caution was necessary and made those difficult decisions quickly.

Though we — still — have no idea what was in the smoke that darkened the sky for several days, administrators did not wait to react. Instead, they relied on common sense. Air quality testing at schools began almost immediately, and results were available to the public as soon as they were in.

In fact, as the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency are still monitoring air quality around the site of the plant fire, the EPA also has an air quality monitor in place outside of Fairplains Elementary School, according to Assistant Superintendent Mike Fling.

School officials took the huge step to replace the filters in every school — no easy task. But it will add to the peace of mind parents have in sending their children back to class.

Though the amount of class time missed has prompted school officials to say they will ask the state to forgive those days off, rather than be forced to try to make them up somehow during the rest of the year … or next summer; it seems as though teachers did not miss a beat in finding a way to get their students talking about what happened and make it part of the learning process. Lubeck Elementary School students did an excellent job thanking their firefighters with handwritten thank-you letters and cards, for example.

Far too many questions remain about this fire and its aftermath; but one thing is clear. From rescheduling athletic events to triple checking the air quality in facilities, Wood County Schools officials made the right calls in easing parents’ minds and keeping students safe.

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