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Education: Relief funds will give needed boost to students

For Mountain State students and teachers the past two semesters presented a nearly overwhelming challenge. With the help of parents and communities, they have found a way to limp through, but we know students are not getting an education that meets our standards. Teachers and school systems are doing their best — and there may, indeed, be a very few students thriving in a remote or blended learning program. But for the most part we know there will be an almost year-long period during which children learned and retained less.

Wednesday, U.S. Sens. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced an enormous financial boost to help school systems recover. Part of the most recent COVID-19 relief package, $339 million from the U.S. Department of Education will come to West Virginia for help with testing, to address learning loss and even to help improve air quality in schools.

That’s a big deal, if the state and counties distribute and use the money properly.

“The COVID-19 pandemic hit our students, teachers, and faculty hard, forcing them to quickly adjust to new ways of learning and teaching,” Manchin said.

Some of those adjustments may stick around. Not every adaptation since March has been a bad thing.

So as officials work to make sure every dime of that $339 million gets where it was meant to go, and is spent properly on projects that will improve our children’s education, they must also be wary of looking to simply return to the status quo of 2019. Let’s take what we have learned — particularly the reinforcement of the idea that learning is not a one-size-fits-all process — and use that money to work even harder to give West Virginia kids the education and opportunities they deserve.

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