GRAFTON, W.Va. – The Taylor County Board of Education held an emergency meeting on Thursday night in the wake of a West Virginia State Board of Education meeting the included a number of recourses the state could take against counties, like Taylor, that don’t comply with its mandate that schools offer in-person learning.
Board member Melissa Garvin said she’s received many emails from parents who are divided into three camps:
1. “Keep kids at home”
2. “Get our kids back in school”
3. “We’re ok with two days a week of in-school”
Another board member, John Taylor, who made a motion at the last board meeting to go to back to a blended model, said that the board would be “ill served to defy the state board of education.”
Board Vice President Austin Upton said he won’t apologize for the way he’s voted to this point and said that he is upset that the demand is coming from people appointed by the governor(the state board), who aren’t elected, as the local boards are.
Following a statement made by Governor Jim Justice on Thursday that included the phrase: “if you don’t want to go to work, I can’t help that,” as well as complaints about the leadership of state teachers unions, Board President Clark Sinclair wanted to make clear that “Not one teacher has threatened to go to the union. We’ve worked well with union representatives Let’s quit bashing them online.”
Board member Melissa Knotts described the suffering her child went through after contracting COVID. Knotts suggested a plan that included a four day week, where in-person students would go for the first half of the day, remote students would be taught in the second half of the day. Knotts also recommended that the county offer virtual learning taught by county teachers, as opposed to state staff. Sinclair agreed that a in-county virtual option should be offered and suggested that be discussed at a future meeting.
Superintendent Christine Miller recommended a blended learning model that would move from two days a week, to four, and eventually five, before the end of the school year. During the pandemic, 168 students of more than 2,000 and 111 staff of more than 330 have had to quarantine, Miller reported.
Garvin made a motion that as of Monday, January 25 to go back to a two day blended model until all staff have reached the effective stage of vaccination and then move to a four day model. High school students would go remote if the county is “red” on the state map. The board approved Garvin’s motion unanimously.
Both the state and Taylor County boards will hold their next meetings on Tuesday, January 26.