by KATE EVANS
Due to a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases locally, Morgan County was classified as an orange county on the West Virginia Department of Education Saturday, October 17 School Alert System map. The orange classification means that Morgan County Schools must move to fully remote learning for this week October 19-23.
The orange status means heightened community COVID-19 transmission of 15 to 24.9 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 or a 5%-7.9% positivity rate of COVID-19 infection.
As of Saturday, October 17, Morgan County had 95 cases of COVID-19 with 90 confirmed cases and five probable cases. Some 31 cases are active cases. On Tuesday, October 13, the county had 80 total cases and 28 active cases. There have been no deaths in Morgan County from COVID-19.
According to the West Virginia Department of Education, when a county reaches the orange status, in-person instruction is suspended and remote learning is activated following the release of the Saturday School Alert System metric map.
Staff continues essential student support services such as meals, student engagement and special education services.
Superintendent’s press release
“Although we believe that children need to be in schools for optimal learning, we must follow the metrics as directed. Students will not report to school starting Monday, October 19 until our metric color on the WVDE Saturday map turns yellow or green,” said Morgan County Schools Superintendent Kristen Tuttle in a Saturday evening press release. The state map is updated each week on Saturday afternoon.
All faculty, staff and administration will report to work while the county is in orange status, Tuttle said.
“Teachers and administrators have established plans to deliver instruction during remote learning and we feel confident in our teachers’ ability to deliver a quality education during this remote time period,” she stressed.
In-person students were given specific information about this transition to remote learning by their teachers on Friday, Tuttle said.
“Teachers will be delivering instruction, communicating with their students and monitoring student progress. Students are expected to be engaged in learning each day,” she said.
Tuttle said that teachers will be available to answer parent questions. They’ll be using their Schoology online learning platform for most students but know that “some families may need additional assistance due to device or internet challenges.”
There are already more than 600 county students learning remotely this school year through the county’s Virtual Academy.
Tuttle reminded parents and students that all of Morgan County school parking lots are internet hotspots along with the county’s state parks and public libraries.
Tuttle added that meals for Morgan County Schools regular virtual students will be distributed on Monday, October 19 at normal distribution times. 5-day meal packs will be distributed to all Morgan County students who returned remote meal request forms, on Tuesday, October 20. Check the morganschools.net home page or the county schools Facebook page for distribution times as they differ from virtual student meal pick-up times due to the volume of meals.
Follow health instructions
Tuttle urged families to follow any instructions from the Berkeley-Morgan County Health Department. If told to quarantine, school officials urged families to do so for the entire period indicated by the Health Department. Tuttle noted that Morgan County Schools support the recommendations and directives of the Health Department.
“We want to keep our students and staff safe and healthy so that we can get back to school soon. We need the citizens of Morgan County to please be vigilant in following recommendations of the local health department, the WVDHHR and the CDC to slow the virus spread in our community,” Tuttle emphasized.
To protect yourself and others during the pandemic, health officials advise wearing face masks or coverings when outside of your home, especially if you’ll be in close proximity to others. Stay at least six feet away from other people and limit your exposure to others. Wash your hands often with soap and water, use hand sanitizer with 70% alcohol and clean and disinfect frequently used objects and surfaces daily.
School Alert System
West Virginia’s School Alert System uses metrics from the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) that use a five-color system of green, yellow, gold, orange and red to indicate the prevalence of COVID-19 within a county’s borders.
The map is updated every Saturday at 5:00 p.m. and determines the level of academic, athletic and extracurricular activities that are allowed in the county during that week. If a county turns red during the week, remote learning would begin the next day and athletic and extracurricular activities would stop immediately.
Under the orange status, athletic and extracurricular activities are limited to conditioning only as defined by WVSSAC. Marching band activities must be limited to outdoors only.