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Mid-Ohio Valley school districts weigh feedback on return

MT. ZION — County school districts are working together with parents, teachers and administrators to discuss options for students to return back to school in the fall.

Calhoun, Pleasants and Jackson Counties will use the feedback from these groups along with guidelines from the state to make their decision for the upcoming semester.

Jackson County is waiting to hear back about the state guidelines before its releases its plan, but will conduct surveys to see what parents would be comfortable with having.

“My goal is to have those discussions so we can get input,” Superintendent Blaine Hess said. “We have to look at how we keep our buildings clean and sanitized to make sure we have the safest environment possible.”

Pleasants County formed a task force including all involved with students to discuss options. Superintendent Mike Wells said among considerations is a four-day model at minimum with the possibility of transitioning back to five days at a later date.

“Those are some informal discussions we’ve had. They’re required to be in school five days, that’s clear from the state department. If it were a four day model in person, the fifth day would be through remote learning and we’d also be required and responsible for feeding them every day even if they aren’t in school,” Wells said.

Calhoun County also formed three committees with personnel from all areas of expertise. Committees include a technology team, a facilities and transportation team and a student service team.

Teams meet once a week and members in between meetings gather information from their areas of work to discuss with the overall group.

Superintendent Kelli Whytsell said a rough draft will be presented to the board of education on Monday, but with the fluidity of the situation, it won’t be finalized until July 13.

Through a survey conducted among parents during one of the food distributions, 435 were surveyed and a majority of parents said they wanted their kids back in school, Whytsell said.

They are also working with the medical community to come up with guidelines and protocols.

“As educators, we deal with the education of students. This is a medical crisis, we are relying heavily on our school nurse is the liaison with the health department,” Whytsell said.

Although there are no active cases in the county, Whytsell said people coming in from vacations or pipeline workers could pose a risk.

“We know a lot of people are traveling for vacations. A lot of them are pipeliners that are very migrant workers. That’s a consideration we’re looking at,” she said.

Whytsell is looking to amend the virtual school policy to allow students from first grade to 12th grade to virtually learn and to give parent’s another option.

“We don’t want parents to drop out and go to home school. We still want to provide them with resources and support,” she said. “We want the best for our students.”

Candice Black can be reached at cblack@newsandsentinel.com.

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