School board discusses fall school reopening options, approves charter school policy

by Kate Evans

Morgan County Schools Superintendent Kristin Tuttle said last week that the county’s six schools are preparing for a continuation of distance learning in the fall if needed.

Officials are preparing contingency plans for three different options: a normal school start, a blended option and a virtual option, depending on what’s happening with the COVID-19 pandemic. School leaders are also working on additional hot spots for students that need internet access and identifying learning gaps, she said.

Tuttle said they are addressing the needs of students now and working on the essentials, which are
keeping kids safe and fed.

Schools will provide meals for students in the summer-five breakfasts and five lunches a week.  All Morgan County students are also eligible to receive around $300 in an EBT card to spend on food.  Students that are eligible for free and reduced meals can get the money, Tuttle said.  All county students are eligible because of the county’s poverty rate and free student meal program at every school.

State plan

Tuttle said that the West Virginia Department of Education had a plan to address nine key areas of concentration with the reopening and recovery of the state’s schools from the pandemic.

Those areas are instruction and learning; school finance; social and emotional wellness; career technical education; child nutrition; special education; school safety and facilities; extracurricular and extended activities; and technology.

A network of partners will work with an advisory council on state educational issues and student ne
eds to prepare for the fall reopening.

State officials expressed concern about the disparity of access to online learning across West Virginia in a document about the new COVID-19 Outbreak to Recovery advisory council. They are focusing on educational technology, intervention resources and broadband internet access and hardware needed by students for remote learning.

The COVID-19 crisis was described as a state and national wake-up call where the digital divide was actually a “canyon that has separated the technological haves and have-nots.”

The state plans to address this disparity and associated challenges as they impact student achievement.

Policy for charter schools

In other business, the Morgan County School Board approved a resolution adopting the West Virginia Board of Education’s Policy 3300 as the Morgan County Charter School Policy. Their action came at their May 19 meeting.

The 55-page state policy addresses the procedures and process for applying for and operating a charter school and includes information about having a mission statement and vision, board members, an
accountability plan, a description of who the charter school would serve, budget and staffing, the educational program and school operations.

Morgan County Schools Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said that the state is requiring counties to adopt their charter school policy or to make adjustments to it and adopt their own by a certain deadline.

Tuttle said it was just easier to adopt the policy with it being a new venture and with the COVID-19 situation.

In the event that someone would apply for a charter school in Morgan County, this policy would govern the procedures to follow and the process to create one, Tuttle said.  The state department of education charter school policy is all based on state legislation.

Tuttle said that she was not aware of anyone planning to open a charter school in Morgan County.

The school board did a first reading of the following policies at their May 19 meeting:

Weapons, student records, definitions, student supervision and welfare, local school improvement council, Mountaineer Challenge Academy, guidance and counseling, interscholastic athletics, educational program, athletic trainer, student supervision and welfare by professional staff, student supervision and welfare by service personnel, instructional resources and supplies, purchases, student abuse and neglect and transportation.

The policies will be posted for 30 days for public comment on the county schools website.

The board also approved moving the three-week summer athletic participation window from June 8-26 to July 6-24.