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Wood BOE waiting for state decision before deciding on re-entry plan

School Superintendent Will Hosaflook, left, speaks while Board President Justin Raber listens during a Wood County Schools Board of Education meeting on Tuesday evening. (Photo by Tyler Bennett)

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Board of Education announced that it will wait and see about the county’s re-entry plan during the first meeting of 2021 at the Jefferson Elementary Center auditorium Tuesday evening.

Originally returning to a five-day-a-week in-person class beginning Jan. 19, the decision on the re-entry plan will depend on the announcement from the West Virginia Department of Education regarding the resumption of in-person instruction and school recovery planning today.

Wood County Schools Superintendent Will Hosaflook said that it would not be wise for the school board to make a re-entry plan for next week, stating that changes could be made the very next day to the plan.

“We all need to listen to the state board meeting tomorrow. There are a lot of counties that have put plans out, that will have to be redacted. Because the state board will say ‘no you can’t do that.’ I don’t want to put a plan out tonight, and then tomorrow morning, have to change the whole thing,” Hosaflook said. “We do know that we want our kids back in school, we want to get our kids safely back in school. I challenged the principals, I’ve challenged teachers to really think outside the box, and even build new boxes to make it safe. It’s worked in other places, it works across the river, we can do it. We just have to think that way, we cannot make a decision until the state board acts.”

During the meeting’s public comment period, most speakers — including some teachers — said that a return to in-person five days a week is too much, too soon for not only the teachers and staff but for students and loved ones as well.

“As the president of AFT-Wood County. I am here asking for your consideration in pushing back the re-entry plan for Wood County students. The infection rates are staggering in this area. Wood County employees are not only concerned about their health and safety, their family’s health and safety, but they’re also concerned about their students and their families,” Parkersburg High School teacher Amelia Wolfe said.

“When discussing re-entry, the question is always, ‘if not now, when?’ We feel the best time to bring all students back to the classroom is once the staff has had the opportunity to be vaccinated. If our county infection rate drops from red in accordance to the DHHR coded map, we welcome the idea of having students return on a blended schedule again. We miss seeing the interactions and collaborations between them and we know they miss school too. We want their return to be safe and worry-free,” Wolfe said.

Hosaflook said Wood County Schools delivered the first round of Pfizer vaccines to around 400 employees that were 50 and over. He is hopeful that Wood County will receive 500 more vaccinations this Thursday or Friday.

The process was handled well thanks in part to Mike Fling, Assistant Superintendent of Support Services, Julie Bertram, Health Services Coordinator, and all 25 of Wood County nurses, according to Hosaflook.

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