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Mingo County’s highest-ranking school administrator has COVID-19. So do others in the school system’s central office, and several staff members at Mingo Central High School.

Superintendent Don Spence confirmed to the Gazette-Mail on Thursday that he has the disease.

“I’m mending, I’m on the mend,” Spence said. “That doesn’t mean we’re falling apart here.”

Mingo Central High interim principal Marcella Charles-Casto has COVID-19, too.

“I was, unknowingly, exposed on Tuesday, Aug. 25,” she wrote in an email. “I was told to quarantine on Friday, Aug. 28. Symptoms emerged on Sunday, Aug. 30, I was tested on Monday, Aug. 31 with the rapid test confirming COVID-19 within 15 minutes.”

The county required employees to return to their schools on Aug. 25.

“I have been isolated in my bedroom, through today,” Charles-Casto wrote. “I really feel that I am on my way to recovery. Giving God all the glory.”

She said five staff members have tested positive there, with one already recovered.

“I do understand that all are on the road to recovery,” she wrote.

The high school’s teacher unions have called for sticking with remote-only learning for the first nine weeks of the school year.

“Although we have a strong desire to be present in the classroom with our students, we have witnessed just how quickly this virus can spread and how damaging it can be,” the unions said in a letter. “Over the past week our staff has had to deal with physical, mental, and emotional complications. It has affected all of us differently, but it has affected us all.”

“We want to teach our students and we are committed to doing so,” the letter stated. “However, we believe that it is in the best interest of student and staff safety that education take place remotely at first.”

Spence confirmed that others in the central office have tested positive, but he declined to give the number.

“You can call the health department,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to give out that information.”

The county health department didn’t return calls for that information Thursday. Someone answering phones said the director was on a phone call regarding COVID-19.

Spence said that, “whoever is out is working their tails off at home. We’re trying to do what we can — what we’re supposed to do — to try to support our schools and our students.”

He said, “we’ve not stopped phoning and coordinating and talking with our staffs and trying to prepare and do the things we need to do. Nobody has stopped.”

The school year is set to start statewide Tuesday, but Mingo won’t be allowed to resume in-person instruction next week if it’s still orange during Saturday’s update of West Virginia’s color-coded school reopening map. It would have to wait until it’s yellow or green the following Saturday and, if not, wait longer.

The colors are based on the average number of new daily cases over the previous seven days.

Reach Ryan Quinn at,, 304-348-1254

or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.