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Wood County Schools delays re-entry plan following state guidance

PARKERSBURG — Wood County Schools will delay the release of a fall reopening plan after Gov. Jim Justice moved the start date for all West Virginia school systems to September.

Justice announced Wednesday all schools would have an opening date of Sept. 8. Many schools were set to begin reopening the first few weeks of August. Justice said he did not believe school systems could be ready to reopen at the beginning of August as the number of positive coronavirus cases in West Virginia has increased in recent weeks as states nationwide have begun to reopen.

The state Department of Education Wednesday also released guidance for reopening, which included additional restrictions and considerations.

Wood County Schools Superintendent Will Hosaflook sent a message to parents and residents saying the district’s reopening plan would not be released next week as was planned.

“Wood County Schools is unable at this time to produce a valid re-entry plan,” he said Thursday. “WVDE just released the re-entry toolkit, and the toolkit does have some requirements, so we have to revise our plan before we can put out a valid product to our community. The goal has been to have students in school five days a week, and that will continue to be the goal for Wood County Schools.”

Hosaflook and other superintendents representing the state’s 55 county-based school systems held a conference call Thursday morning to discuss the later start date and reopening guidance. Hosaflook said superintendents were not aware of Justice’s plan to change the start date until the governor announced it during his daily COVID-19 news conference.

“We’re still in a state of emergency,” Hosaflook said.

The governor “has the authority to push school back. He is surrounded by many health officials who are helping guide his decision making. I have all the faith in the world the health officials surrounding Gov. Justice are going to make the best decisions in the best interest and the safety of our students and employees,” Hosaflook said.

Hosaflook said the change in start date will result in a change in the 2020-21 school calendar, as officials must continue to work with other state requirements and employee contract limitations. The state guidance also contains requirements which might not have been included in the

“Our plan will include all of the state requirements,” he said. “It will closely mirror the state guidance.”

Hosaflook said Wood County Schools has more than 100 people of various backgrounds working on the re-entry plan, with numerous committees looking at specific areas, such as transportation, food service and curriculum. Those individuals and committees will continue to be part of the revision process, he said.

The revised document will have to be reviewed by the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department before it is released to the public, he said.

Even after the plan is presented and approved by the Wood County Board of Education, officials will be tasked with making sure those items are followed in all schools.

“We will have teach procedures and new policies to students and to our employees,” he said. “It will be a work in progress, especially during the first two weeks when we get back to school.”

Contact Michael Erb at merb@newsandsentinel.com.

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