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Most Marshall County Teachers Wary of 5-Day In-Person Return

MOUNDSVILLE — A wide swath of Marshall County teachers are against returning to five-day in-person instruction on Jan. 19, a county teachers’ union officer said at a recent school board meeting.

During the Marshall County Board of Education’s Tuesday meeting — a night before the West Virginia Board of Education voted to nix full-time remote learning on Jan. 19 — Marshall County Education Association co-president Matthew Mandarino told the board that most of the association’s members were against a return to five-day in-person learning.

“Eighty-four percent responded that we should not resume in-person instruction,” Mandarino told the board.

Marshall County teachers, parents and students will learn what the future holds today, when the county school district releases its re-entry plan.

Mandarino said Tuesday that most teachers favored the Level 3 schedule if they had to return. In that schedule, half the student body attends two days in-person learning, while three days are spent learning remotely.

A smaller number favored four-day in-person learning, with a fifth day closure of schools to clean the facility.

“When asked what scenario they prefer, if we returned to in-person instruction, 60 employees indicated that they prefer the Level 3 hybrid model, and 39 expressed preference for the Level 2 four-day model. Only four members stated that we should return to five-day-per-week, in-person instruction at this time.”

Marshall County Superintendent Shelby Haines issued a statement Thursday, saying local union representatives, school administrators and health officials have been in the loop throughout the planning process. A survey also was sent to employees to gauge their comfort level in returning.

“We value the input of the professionals who work hard every day to give our students the best education possible,” Haines said. “The safety of our students and employees is always taken into account when making such important decisions.”

Haines met at a state superintendents conference late Thursday, and administrators are meeting to discuss and produce the re-entry plan this morning.

Mandarino said that while the state, and the school board, have done a good job ensuring vaccine availability to employees, there are lingering doubts as to whether it’s safe to return to in-person education. Last week, 170 county employees received the COVID-19 vaccine, distributed with the help of Moundsville Pharmacy. On Thursday, an additional 272 shots were given, this time to employees age 40 and older, as well as those who missed the clinic last week and substitute teachers.

“According to our survey, 65 percent of respondents would not feel safe returning to in-person instruction after receiving only the first dose of vaccine,” Mandarino said.

Mandarino, on behalf of the MCEA, recommended that in-person instruction be delayed until instructors over 50, who he described as “our most vulnerable employees,” received the second dose of the vaccine. Also, he said in-person instruction should remain suspended as long as the DHHR map color remains red or orange, reflecting lower rates of infection and percent positivity due to lowered spread of COVID-19.

“We respect the opinions of all employees, including those who are in favor of in-person instruction on Jan, 19. We are genuinely concerned about the safety, mental health and academic success of our children,” Mandarino said.

The MCEA also recommended that Haines create a task force of teachers, administrators and parents to discuss ways to provide additional support toward a remote learning period.

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