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Transparency: Schools must keep public informed on COVID-19

No doubt most parents and guardians who have decided to send their children back to public schools in West Virginia, beginning Sept. 8, did so with some trepidation. What if COVID-19 breaks out in a child’s school?

Educators have been given detailed guidance on what to do if even one case of the virus is detected among students and staff in a school. It is contained in a “toolkit” prepared by the state Department of Education, at https://tinyurl.com/y5bu35qx.

If COVID-19 is detected in a school, students and employees with the virus must stay home during an isolation period, of course. The classroom or core group that had been in contact with the affected person also must go through a 14-day quarantine period.

Schools can remain open unless the virus has been detected in two or more classrooms/core groups, however. Even then, the state only recommends that county officials CONSIDER closing the affected school.

How will parents know whether COVID-19 has been detected in a particular school? Good question.

State officials’ “toolkit” includes a page on communications. It requires that schools “be transparent and timely in updating families and communities.” It recommends the news media be employed to provide weekly updates.

We feel confident school officials in our area will take a proactive approach, beyond merely going through the motions by posting COVID-19 updates on websites few parents ever visit. Every means of communicating with parents and the community in general needs to be utilized.

It appears there is no requirement for that in the state’s guidance, however.

In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered that school systems make information about COVID-19 cases available to the public. Here in the Mountain State, Gov. Jim Justice should issue a similar order.

Whether one exists or not, school officials should understand that when the health of our children and grandchildren is at stake, nothing less than immediate, full transparency will be acceptable.

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