The Kanawha County school system is closing classrooms next week, even if Gov. Jim Justice’s color-coded school reopening map allows in-person instruction.
Only special education students will be allowed to have in-person instruction next week.
“With the increasing COVID-19 numbers in Kanawha County and our current orange designation, no matter the color this Saturday, KCS will be remote learning next week, Dec. 14-18,” the district announced. “In-person students will log into [online learning platform] Schoology daily. We hope this allows time for families to make plans.”
Students will still be able to get free meals daily at their closest bus stops, with deliveries beginning at 11 a.m. along the routes, the county said.
School board member Ric Cavender, who had previously tried to dissuade fellow board members from restarting five-days-a-week of in-person instruction when they did, also announced this week that he has COVID-19.
“I don’t want anybody feeling like this,” he said. “It’s no joke.”
The Board of Education previously scheduled only online learning for the week after next — which includes Christmas — and it previously said schools would be closed the week after that. So in-person instruction won’t resume until at least Jan. 4.
Since Oct. 12, Kanawha has been among the few counties in the state with public school classrooms open to all students five days a week. However, even since that date students at multiple Kanawha schools have lost in-person days due to COVID-19 issues, including infections and lack of staff, that only closed certain schools or classrooms.
The Justice administration’s color-coded map, which can force counties to shutter all their public schools based on measures of the virus’ spread, hasn’t forced Kanawha to close its classrooms since it reopened them.
But Kanawha’s seven-day average number of new daily cases, per 100,000 residents, was 56 as of Tuesday. That’s according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
That’s roughly double what the map used to say made a county “red,” meaning a county must immediately close classrooms.
Only Kanawha’s average percentage of tests that come back positive, which was 5.39% as of Tuesday, has kept it out of the red. The map used to not consider this positivity rate indicator, but Justice later added the measure and said the better looking of a county’s positivity rate or average new daily cases would determine its color.
Kanawha is orange now, which doesn’t require immediate closure — but would require closure for next week if Kanawha were still orange as of later this week.
The district’s announcement Wednesday of voluntarily pausing in-person instruction, despite the map not forcing it to, has been rare in the state — but is quickly becoming less so.
News site My Buckhannon reported that the Upshur County Board of Education voted in mid-November to cease in-person instruction until Jan. 4.
WV News reported that Marion County will also be going online only through Jan. 4, in an announcement made Tuesday. Monongalia County also recently made the move.