MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia Education Association is speaking out against a decision at the state level overruling the Monongalia County Board of Education’s plan to hold the first nine weeks of school virtually.
In a news conference Thursday afternoon, WVEA state and local officials announced that they have offered to join the county board of education in seeking an injunction against the state, challenging its authority to override the local decision.
“When you look at down the road what is best for our students, the inconsistency is not good for them. You know, to go remote one week, to go back in the classroom the next week, to go remote the next week. You know, that is going to be chaos for parents, for students and there is not that consistency where learning will be taking place. And so that is a huge concern for us,” said Heather DeLuca-Nestor, Monongalia County WVEA President
With Monongalia County in the “orange” on the state’s color-coded map, and likely to be there on Saturday, the county will start school next week online-only.
Instead of potentially flipping from virtual to in-person learning from week to week, the WVEA would like to see it remain virtual in Monongalia County for a period of at least four weeks, it said.
“It now becomes a decision on how long the remote wants to be, should be, and we believe that the county is the one who should make that decision, not the metrics,” said Dale Lee, WVEA President.
The map system puts stress on families who are trying to make childcare arrangements and teachers who are trying to prepare lesson plans, WVEA President Dale Lee said.
Reacting to statements by Gov. Jim Justice and State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch during the governor’s virtual news briefing on Wednesday, that some groups were trying to make the school re-entry process political, Lee said: “There is nothing more political than the abuse of power by overriding the decision of local school systems who was looking out for the safety and interest of their students and employees. I’m appalled that a group that touts local control would override that decision and force a one size fits all system into this unique situation.”
Both Justice and Burch have said on several occasions that they believe in local control.
There has been some movement to exclude West Virginia University-related COVID-19 cases from the metrics used to determine the color-coded map, the way nursing home patients and jail/prison inmates are. Lee said the WVEA totally disagrees with this suggestion, as WVU students move freely throughout the community.
Lee said his organization is also concerned about the amount of PPE available in schools across the state.
Monongalia County Education Association officials said that a strike is a last resort, but that, unlike work stoppages held in recent years, should it come to that, this would be a strike.
“We will get the kids, educationally, where they need to be, but we’re going to get them there safely,” Lee said.
The WVEA’s full news conference can be seen in the video player at the top of the story.