Two weeks ago the Mingo County Board of Education approved a 2020--21 school year reentry plan that school officials are optimistic will help mitigate some of the complications still being created by the COVID-19 pandemic, while simultaneously still provide students and teachers with some semblance of normalcy.
Currently the governor's official start date for all the state's schools is Sept. 8.
Provided significant spikes in the number of cases and deaths don't force another statewide closure of schools before that date, the general plan presently calls for Mingo County students attending in-school four days a week and receiving instruction the fifth day via remote learning.
Because the the start date has been pushed back to Sept. 8, which in essence shortens the original school calendar, Superintendent Don Spence said the board would have to approve a revised calendar that will still maintain the required 180 days of instruction time for students as well as insure that employees still have a 200-day contract.
"It's really simple: if you were supposed to start on Aug. 19 and get out at this time (in June) but now can't start until Sept. 8, it compresses the calendar," he said. "So what you have to do is make adjustments."
Spence said OS (outside school environment) days, which are days students are not in school and employees don't work, are now going to be used to supplement the extra days school is not in session for holidays.
"The big change in the Thanksgiving holiday is it goes from a full week to three days — Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday," he explained.
Spence said other OS days will be used during the Christmas break, which originally had been scheduled for two weeks. With the revised calendar, he said Christmas break will begin on Dec. 23 and run through Jan. 1.
"The other is spring break ... instead of totally eliminating spring break we're going to give them Good Friday and then that following Monday, which will give them a four-day break," he said.
Spence said even though employees' start day has been pushed back from Aug. 19 to Aug. 25 employees will not be shorted a payday due to the later start date, which he noted had been a source of concern for many employees.
Spence said last day for students will now be June 2 and June 4 for employees.
Board member John Preece wanted to know if the adjusted calendar considers days that may be lost due to inclement weather.
Because the fifth day of instruction will be via remote learning and because it is assumed that, should schools continue to get to operate as planned and another complete closure is not ordered by the governor, Spence said both teachers and students should be well acclimated to the remote learning format by the time bad weather becomes an issue.
"I think we will be so well practiced in our remote learning program that anytime we have a snow day the teachers can go right on and not miss a beat," he said. "So even though I may notify the news agencies that our schools are closed because of bad weather, because of the remote learning, there really wouldn't be any snow days that would require being made up."
Board member Sabrina Grace then asked if teachers would be required to come to school on bad weather days to teach the remote learning program or if they would be allowed to teach the program from home.
"If it's a bad snow day I'm not going to expect our employees to be out on the roads coming in to the schools," he said. "Really, by that time (teachers) should be able (to teach the remote learning format) from home.”
Following further discussion, the board voted 5-0 in favor of adopting the revised calendar.