A Safe Return to School


A Safe Return to School
  • Start schools remotely. Following CDC guidelines, begin in-person instruction only after 14 consecutive days of no new cases of COVID-19.
    • After the 14-day mark, in-person instruction should be slowly phased in and monitored for any new outbreak in cases.
  • Provide remote-school training for teachers, students, and parents.
    • Utilize county school websites and the West Virginia Department of Education website to offer user-friendly training.
    • Allow staff to complete training modules at home.
  • Release video/radio/media messages to prepare families for what to expect upon starting remotely.
    • For example, how to use online platforms, what the expectations for hours and student and parent participation are, where to go for questions, etc.
  • Provide ways for students to “meet” their teacher(s) and school staff.
    • Host outdoor “Back to School” events where, at staggered times, students and parents/caregivers can meet their teacher(s) and school staff, receive supplies for the upcoming year, and discuss their needs and obstacles for the upcoming year.
  • Address students’ emotional/mental health.
    • Have teachers review last year’s roster to identify high-risk students. Check-in with all students weekly by phone, and create a referral system for serious issues to be sent to counselors and social workers.
  • Prioritize students with special needs.
    • Some school staff may need to do home visits (and be compensated for mileage) or provide hands-on learning at certain sites in a county. School systems should consult Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and reach out to students’ families to ensure they are provided services.
  • Waive the 180 day (or equivalent minute) requirement for the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Utilize the CARES Act money (and any future COVID-19 response money) to: 
    • Provide internet access and/or technology to families in need.
    • Provide childcare for families with caregivers who must work.
    • Hire additional staff so that student safety is paramount.
  • Utilize Local School Improvement Councils (LSICs) to plan and monitor school reentry.
    • LSICs should update their school crisis prevention and management plans to document best practices during COVID-19.
  • Inspect and approve the ventilation systems of all school buildings for proper airflow prior to resuming any in-person learning.
    • Inspections must be completed by an independent agency. If systems do not pass inspection, alternative locations must be utilized. Make the inspection reports public.
  • Provide regular, widespread, and free COVID-19 testing and contact tracing for staff and students with an average turn-around time of 48 hours or less.
    • All staff should be tested before in-person learning begins.
    • Issue clear procedures for when someone tests positive.
  • Furnish PPE (masks and face shields, wipes, gloves, sanitizer, etc) for employees and students. 
    • PPE must be on site before schools start in-person.
  • Mandate and monitor mask-wearing at all times in West Virginia schools.
  • Release video/radio/media messages to prepare students and families for what to expect upon arrival to school.
    • FAQ - e.g., demonstrating mask-wearing, social distancing, greeting friends, etc.
  • Ensure six feet of social distancing between students and staff at all times in school buildings.
  • Enforce strict classroom caps of 20 or fewer students.
  • Implement reasonable accommodations for students / staff with underlying medical conditions.
    • Provide alternate assignments (with the same pay) for employees who cannot be in their normal work area.
  • Establish clear guidelines in case of an outbreak necessitating a return to remote learning. 
    • Guidelines should include how to contact families, food accessibility, how students will hear from teachers, etc.
  • Create an anonymous call-in line for families and school employees to report concerns.
    • Provide documentation that concerns were promptly answered.
  • Provide a full-time nurse in every West Virginia school, and increase the number of social workers in each county school system.
    • Waive the statewide standardized testing requirement for the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Alter the employee evaluations for the 2020-2021 school year. 
    • Base them on employees’ actual working conditions. Consult with school staff before implementing the new evaluation system.
  • Think outside the “box” and outside the classroom.
    • Utilize outdoor learning, community centers, gyms, and other meeting spaces where social distancing is possible.