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A task force created by West Virginia’s school superintendent recommends any work students have done or will do remotely since the statewide school shutdown began not count against their grades.

“It is recommended that the final grade a student had on March 13, 2020, be the lowest grade the student would receive,” the task force suggests for middle- and high-schoolers. “From this point forward, grades could be value-added through review, reteach, enrichment.”

As for elementary students, “it is recommended that children’s grades must not be lowered as a result of remote learning but enhanced.” For special education students, “progress reports rather than grades should be considered.”

The task force also recommends, as part of the same guidance document released late Wednesday, that students spend much less time on schoolwork during the coronavirus shutdown than during a normal school day.

It suggests just this much per day:

  • Prekindergarten: 20 minutes to an hour
  • Kindergarten: a half-hour to an hour-and-a-half
  • 1st-2nd grades: 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half
  • 3rd-5th grades: an hour to two hours
  • Middle school: an hour-and-a-half to 2

1/2

  • hours
  • High school: two to three hours

The task force suggested teachers meet virtually to ensure that, when all subjects and classes are combined, work doesn’t exceed that recommended maximum.

The guidance document says Gov. Jim Justice directed schools Superintendent Clayton Burch to assemble the task force. Its 43 members include Melissa Ruddle, Kanawha County’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and Paula Potter, Kanawha’s assistant superintendent for middle schools.

The document also states: “The task force’s best practices and overarching recommendations respect that these decisions are made locally and recognizes that each school district will consider which of these best practices meets the unique needs of their student population.”

Throughout the document, the task force stresses the importance of maintaining communication with families and children and the difficulties of teaching at this time — especially in an equitable manner. The task force notes that many students have unstable home lives, not just unstable internet connections.

“Educators must be careful not to allow the lack of traditional, face-to-face classroom instruction [to] amplify existing inequities for the students they serve,” the guidance says.

“If some students are learning online while others are not, then offline activities should be educationally comparable to online activities and mirror the desired content, skills, and rigor,” it says. Teachers have been using online education and paper packets to teach their students.

“Since homes will be the new classrooms, it is critical that remote learning works in a multitude of family and home contexts,” the document states. “For example, students may be home alone while adults are working, they may be caretakers for siblings, coping with the illness or loss of a family member or struggling with their own anxiety and depression.”

On March 17, the day after the school shutdown began, Burch announced the cancellation of annual standardized testing.

As the closure has since elongated, now at least through April 30, a remaining question has been how teachers would — or whether they should — continue with their usual grading practices. The new guidance recommends that grades on remote learning essentially just count for extra credit.

“It’s unrealistic to think that it’s going to be a lot of new content,” Burch said Thursday morning on MetroNews radio about remote education. He said he thinks a lot of virtual high school classes will continue, though.

The guidance also says the state’s virtual school will waive fees for summer courses for middle- and high-schoolers. Registration will start May 1, and courses should be complete by July 31.

Jan Barth, the assistant state superintendent over the Division of Teaching and Learning, said the summer course fees had been $40 per half-credit for students not covered by county grant funding or other funding.

Also, she said high school credit-recovery courses will allow for students to take online exams from home without a teacher being physically there to supervise.

Barth said there are many ways to monitor students remotely on this, but added, “Is it cheat free? No, it’s not, but it’s the best we can do in this emergency situation.”

Remote learning and credit recovery are two paths students who had failing grades as of March 13 may increase their scores to pass — if they can take part in these paths.

Asked how the possible unfairness for students who don’t have access to these grade boosters will be addressed, Barth said, “If a county school district wants to have a very small gathering of a teacher who wants to proctor this face-to-face and, perhaps, a few students coming in, we wouldn’t tell them they couldn’t do that.”

She also listed offline avenues to distance education, such as by telephone and traditional mail.

Reach Ryan Quinn at

ryan.quinn@wvgazettemail.com,

facebook.com/ryanedwinquinn,

304-348-1254 or follow

@RyanEQuinn on Twitter.