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Boone County Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Huffman addresses the board during a special session on Jan. 14.

FOSTER — The Boone County Board of Education voted during a special session on Jan. 14 to adopt a blended-learning model, initiated in three phases, to get the county’s students back into the classrooms.

Superintendent Jeffrey Huffman presented a draft of the model to the board for review and discussion, which saw input from multiple members.

Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order on Jan. 11 stating that all students in West Virginia would begin in-person learning on Jan. 19. Additionally, The West Virginia Department of Education took action last week to confirm this order, with the provision that county boards could decide the process through which they return.

Board President Susan Kimbler spoke about the importance of any plan that was adopted locally and what the board was tasked with achieving.

“Once the Governor has made an executive order and the West Virginia Department of Education takes action, it pretty much takes part of the control of the local school boards away,” she said. “We can debate this until we are blue in the face, and it is my belief that we must make a decision as to how we will start school up on Tuesday Jan. 19.”

Board Member Rob Nelson brought up various points of interest from both health and wellness and educational perspectives. Nelson inquired about the schedule for vaccinations of both professional and service staff members.

“I don’t want anyone to think that I am insensitive to the health care issues, but I am equally concerned about all of the other issues,” Nelson said.

Superintendent Huffman said that, in December, Boone County schools received a report that was based on a survey of employees 50 and older that provided information regarding those in that age bracket who wished to receive the vaccine.

“Last Friday, we did have the first vaccination clinic for those 50 and older who wished to take the vaccine and we had about 150 employees who participated,” he said. “Today there was a vaccination clinic for those 40-49 who indicated they wished to have the vaccination when it was available and we had either 77 or 80 individuals who responded that they wanted vaccination. What people may not understand is that the number of vaccinations we received are based on those surveys.”

Huffman said it was worthy of noting that some who had declined to receive the vaccine on the survey had changed their minds and some who initially wanted the vaccine now reached out to Boone County Schools with a desire to decline it.

“We’ve been able to reach everyone, I believe 50 and older, who wanted the vaccine were given that opportunity,” he said. “Most of the people 40-49 who wanted it received it today so it was a total of approximately 230 that received the vaccination.”

Second rounds of vaccinations are scheduled for 28 days later, according to Huffman.

Boone County Schools employs approximately 450 people across the county.

Vice President Chuck Gibson expressed a desire to use Cares Act funding creatively in a way to compensate employees without using sick or personal days when they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the work place and must quarantine.

“I would support such a policy and get the opinion of the rest of the board members and see where we’re at,” Gibson added. “If we have a teacher off for 10-14 days and they were exposed to a student in a class and we make them take their days, I don’t think it is fair for them to have to take their days for that.”

Gibson added that his thoughts also encompassed service personnel.

Via a vote by the board, Boone County Schools adopted a three-phase plan, as outlined and released by the Boone County Board of Education:

  • Phase I: Blended Model of 2+1+2 with students last names beginning with A-K attending Monday and Tuesday and students with last names beginning with L-Z attending Thursday and Friday. Phase 1 will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 19, and continue through Feb. 26.
  • Phase 2: This phase will consist of four days per week of face-to-face instruction, with Wednesday being a remote learning day. Phase 2 will begin March 1 and continue through March 12.
  • Phase 3: This phase will consist of five days per week of face-to face instruction in the school setting. Phase 3 will begin March 15 and continue through June 4.
  • All dates are target dates and subject to change.
  • NOTE: According to the orders given to the BOE, PreK-8 will attend school regardless of what the WVDHHR map indicates.
  • Students in grades 9-12 will not attend school if the WVDHHR designates the county as red on the Sat/Sun map(s).

Visit boonecountyboe.org for updates.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry @hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.