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Wood Schools to retain blended learning format

Wood County Schools Superintendent Will Hosaflook speaks Tuesday during the Wood County Board of Education meeting. (Photo by Tyler Bennett)

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Board of Education announced at its Tuesday night meeting that Wood County schools will continue to use the blended learning format for the foreseeable future.

Superintendent Will Hosaflook said even though Wood County students and faculty have been following the mask guidelines set up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and West Virginia Department of Health, the current blend of instruction will continue.

The issue with a return to a five-day school week is it will be nearly impossible for Wood County to follow social distance requirements outside of the classroom. The biggest issue will be with students removing masks to eat and being close by each other standing in the lunch line and at lunch tables. Hosaflook also stated from an email with all 24 principals in Wood County that it would be best to continue with the blended format.

“Wood County Schools and principals understand that limiting most students to two days of on-campus learning poses hardships and challenges for working families, and complicates childcare, especially for young elementary students,” he said. “We believe in-person face to face instruction is superior in nearly all cases. We would prefer to have all our students in our buildings every day. Our teachers would prefer to have all students in our buildings every day,” Hosaflook said.

“However, we realize our personal preference should not drive decision-making in a situation. We must balance our ability to accomplish our educational mission, while reducing the risk and actual transmission of COVID-19 virus disease. We believe our current blended learning scenario provides the best balance,” Hosaflook said.

To help with blended learning, Wood County has given out 800 wi-fi hotspot devices to 902 families to access connections they wouldn’t normally have access to.

“Our community has done a great job, they really have,” Hosaflook said. “To understand the numbers, you really have to dive in and look at testing and look at the communal transmission and so on. But more importantly, we have to think about the safety, the safety of our students and staff,” he said.

“But with that being said, you really have to start considering it because we’ve only been in school five weeks. Let’s see where this is going to go and then hopefully in four weeks or five days, the principals will be ready for the challenge.”

Amelia Wolfe, Wood County American Federation of Teachers president and Parkersburg High School biology and environmental science teacher, expressed her concerns to the school board as well stating it is still too early to allow students full-time.

“The safety of our staff and students is our number one priority. The blended learning format currently employed in this county is allowing some direct instruction, some virtual instruction, which although not ideal is appropriate under the circumstances. Wood County’s been fortunate to keep our numbers low through diligent mask-wearing, handwashing, and social distancing,” Wolfe said.

“Currently, students are able to practice social distancing. Bringing all students back to campus five days a week will make social distancing very challenging in classrooms and hallways, and impossible in the cafeteria. Our cafeterias and lunch schedules currently allow us to keep social distancing, We have no way to ensure social distancing with full students,” she said.

Bruce Boston, a teacher at Jackson Middle School and president of Wood County Teacher Association, stated as well that he can follow guidelines with only allowing half capacity at school but will be nearly impossible to follow if Wood Country returns to a five-day school week.

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