Mercer Co. School bus

PRINCETON — Two plans for bringing students back to school plus a virtual learning option for families who want children to stay home have been approved by the Mercer County Board of Education.

The board of education has two plans, Model A and Model B, for bringing students back to school Sept. 8 if it is possible, according to Amy Harrison, data and communications specialist with Mercer County Schools.

“There are two options,” Harrison said Wednesday. “We’re charged with opening schools and we have plans depending on what COVID looks like at the time.”

The plans were approved Tuesday evening during the Mercer County Board of Education’s July meeting.

“We’ve had a number of people including staff, parents, and administrators work to develop a plan we believe provides our children a safe educational environment this fall,” according to Superintendent Deborah Akers. “The Mercer County Board of Education approved a plan that includes two possible choices. The infection rate at the time of schools opening will determine which plan will go into effect. We have an option for parents who do not feel comfortable sending their children to the normal school setting to opt for virtual school.”

First, there is Model A where students attend schools five days a week; however, the days will be shortened, Harrison stated. Elementary school students will start their instructional days at 7:30 a.m. and leave school at 1 p.m. Middle school students will start their days at 8:45 a.m. and depart at 2:56 p.m. High schools will start their days at 8:52 a.m. and leave school at 2:41 p.m.

“Teachers will be with their students all day,” Harrison said. “Their planning periods and lunches will be when students are not there. That will allow them to spread out and we’re keeping them in cohorts, just a group of kids that stay together all day, which with elementary (students) is easier. With middle school and high school students, they will keep them together as much as possible. They (schools) are doing some scheduling to try and help them.”

Keeping students in smaller groups that stay together will help limit their exposure to the rest of their school’s student bodies, she said.

The Model B plan has the same times for starting class and leaving school except half the students will be in class every other day. Students who are at home will have remote learning, Harrison said. This would allow for smaller classes because only half a school’s population will be there at one time.

Mercer County Schools will receive guidance from the Mercer County Health Department, the governor and the state Department of Education over which plan to choose in September, she said.

There will be a virtual learning option, too, Harrison added.

“The virtual option is through the West Virginia Virtual School which is through the West Virginia Department of Education,” she said. “They can register for that at any time and that link is on our Facebook page as well. Parents can choose virtual school if they’re uneasy with either Plan A or Plan B.”

The reopening plans and information about virtual learning will be available for viewing on the Mercer County Schools website and the Mercer County Schools Facebook page.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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