WV schools mask decisions to be made at county level

West Virginia News

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia schools will be back in session this month, and the West Virginia Board of Education has released its School Recovery and Guidance today. WV Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch says this includes having each county make the decision as to whether students, faculty and staff will need to wear masks.

State officials also say they’ve planned a friendly competition among schools to help encourage students and employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to Burch, the state is hosting a competition among schools across the Mountain State where the 12 schools with the highest vaccination rates will receive $50,000 grants.

The superintendent strongly encouraged that staff and eligible students get vaccinated against the virus, calling the vaccine the “strongest mitigation strategy we have.” Throughout the summer, schools across the state have been offering school vaccination clinics to make getting the vaccine as easy and convenient for students as possible.

Burch says the biggest difference in schools this year is students will be able to return to the classroom in person. Schools will continue with mitigation strategies to create a safe, clean environment as well as contact tracing plans implemented last year.

The mitigation strategies outlined in the School Recovery and Guidance include:

  • Cleaning and Disinfecting
    • Schools should take an audit of all needed materials and supplies for cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting and preventing diseases from spreading.
    • Officials recommend schools assign cleaning and disinfecting responsibilities to ensure cleaning happens consistently
    • Make sure adequate supplies for healthy hygiene such as paper towels, soap, hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol and tissues are available for safe use by staff and older children.
    • Make sure high touch surfaces are properly cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis. This includes establishing a schedule for routine cleaning.
    • Shared objects should also be disinfected on a regular basis.
    • Ensure that cleaning and disinfecting products are safely and correctly used and stored.
    • Limit sharing classroom materials or personal items. Provide adequate supplies for individual student use.
  • Hand Hygiene and Coughing/Sneezing Etiquette
    • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and/or safely use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
    • Make sure to wash and/or sanitize hands:
      • Before eating or preparing food
      • Before and after you touch your face
      • After using the restroom
      • After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
    • If you need to cough or sneeze, do so into your elbow or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue.
    • Throw used tissues into the trash and immediatly wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
  • Schools should work with their local public health officials to develop a plan regarding school-based or community events.
  • Maintain proper social distancing

As far as high school sports, some practices are in full swing and WV Secondary School Activities Commission Executive Director Bernie Dolan says they have not yet had any outbreaks connected to practices. Teams have been given recommendation guidelines to help keep students and coaching staff safe.

Dolan encouraged athletes and staff to get vaccinated against the virus. He says those who are vaccinated will not have to quarantine if they come in contact with a positive COVID-19 case, and that quarantine periods for athletes caused more issues with sports schedules last year than actual cases of the virus among teams.

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