County schools will stay closed this year; officials address grades, graduation

by Kate Evans

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced in a Tuesday, April 21 press conference and press release that all state pre-k-12 schools will remain closed through the end of the 2019-2020 school year due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Justice said that he had hoped schools could reopen so kids could see their friends and teachers again, but this was what had to be done to protect everyone.

School facilities and building will stay closed while remote learning and meal deliveries continue.

Justice encouraged school districts to find a way to hold graduation ceremonies to celebrate their seniors’ achievements and told students to keep up with their studies.

State Superintendent

State School Superintendent Clayton Burch said a state Graduation Task Force is working on graduation issues and a smooth transition for graduates to their future. Advanced Placement (AP) student exams, dual credits and Career Technical Education (CTE) completion issues were being addressed, he noted at the press conference.

Burch said that the West Virginia Department of Education will cover the cost of all virtual learning for high school students this summer for free. Any junior that missed the SAT test will be able to take the exam in the fall for free.

At the April 21 school board meeting just hours after the governor’s announcement, Morgan County Schools Superintendent Kristen Tuttle and school board president Aaron Close both said they were disheartened and disappointed in schools having to remain closed through the end of the school year, but acknowledged it was necessary for safety.

“Staff wants to see their kids and misses them and it’s heartbreaking for staff and all of us, but we’ll get through it,” Tuttle said.

Schools will continue distance learning  and feeding students. School staff, in cooperation with Cacapon State Park, delivered 6,000 meals in five-day packs for the week of April 13-17 and are preparing 7,000 meals for this week, Tuttle said.

They’re looking at whether Camp MoCo and MC After 3 can operate virtually, but don’t have any answers yet, she said. Summer school is still planned.

Graduation

Superintendent Tuttle said that the school system is working on plans for graduation and hasn’t made a decision yet on the arrangements. Tuttle said at the school board meeting that a traditional graduation ceremony is not going to be possible, but that they will plan something.

One graduation option could include virtual distancing. School officials wanted to get input from students and parents about what to do.

“Our hearts go out to the seniors,” she said.

Personnel, grading

Tuttle said that all school personnel have been able to keep their jobs and paychecks though the school closure.

When asked how schools would know if students were ready to move to the next grade level, Tuttle said students would be promoted to the next grade level if they were passing at the end of the third 9-weeks. Elementary students who were to be retained were already identified before schools were closed on March 16.

Middle school and high school students who were failing at the end of the third 9-week grading period could try to achieve a passing grade by working to complete assignments and raise their final grade, she said.

Students could only increase their grades and not have final grades lower than their grades were when schools closed in March.

All standardized testing has been waived for this year at the federal and state level. Additional documents will be released about grading and expectations.

“Students will not be penalized in any way for this pandemic situation that is completely out of their control,” Tuttle emphasized.

 

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