PUTNAM COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – The West Virginia Education Association says they and some parents are suing the Putnam County Board of Education over the COVID-19 protocols in the schools.
The suit, filed Oct. 18, 2021, claims the policies the BOE has set in place regarding contact tracing, mask-wearing, quarantine and seating charts violate West Virginia Regulations.
WVEA President Dale Lee says the suit seeks a preliminary injunction in an effort to keep students, school employees and their families safe from further spread of COVID-19.
“The Putnam County BOE is clearly violating the law and is not willing to make any changes in order to comply with the regulations. Specifically, they are in violation of West Virginia’s Reportable Disease Rules (64CSR7). DHHR, the WVDE and the governor’s office are aware of the violation,” Lee said. “WVEA is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment at school for our students and employees.”
On Aug. 19, the Board announced a 30-day mask mandate for the county’s schools as COVID-19 numbers were rising across the state but reversed that decision on Aug. 23. On Sept. 24, the Board announced a new policy that states masks are optional for students unless 25% of students in grades 9 through 12 test positive for COVID-19 and 15% of students in Kindergarten through 8th grade test positive. If that threshold is met, then masks will be mandatory. More information on that policy is available here.
According to the West Virginia Department of Education, Poca Middle School and Poca Elementary School are the only two schools in the county that have a reported active outbreak with three cases at the middle school and eight cases at the elementary school as of the Oct. 15 update. Putnam County Schools says on its website as of Oct. 13, a total of 71 active cases were reported among 20 of the county’s 23 schools. The other three schools reported no active cases.
Not all of the cases listed by Putnam County Schools are listed as “outbreaks” by the West Virginia Department of Education. The WVDE defines an outbreak as:
*Multiple cases comprising at least 10% of students, teachers, or staff, within a specified core group (e.g. classroom, extracurricular activity, sports team).
*OR at least three cases within a specified core group (e.g. classroom, extracurricular activity, sports team).
*COVID-19 cases with symptom onset or positive test result within 14 days of each other that were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting (i.e., household) AND epidemiologically linked in the school setting.West Virginia Department of Education COVID-19 “Outbreak” definition