Liz McCormick Published

Governor Issues Executive Order Allowing In-Person School To Resume Next Week For K-8 Students


Gov. Jim Justice first announced his intention to have kindergarten through middle school return to in-person learning in his final virtual press conference of 2020.

On Monday, he made this decision official with an executive order allowing counties to resume in-person school on Jan. 19 for grades 8 and below, even if a county is marked red on the state’s coronavirus map.

“Our medical experts believe with all in them that exposure for going back to school is extremely minimal,” Justice said in his Monday virtual press briefing. “And from the standpoint of our 8th grade on down it is very, very, very minimal.”

The governor’s health team, including coronavirus Czar Clay Marsh, said this low virus transmission rate in young people is likely due to smaller airways. Marsh said children do not cough as powerfully as adults, and thus produce smaller amounts of droplets or aerosols.

“We know that as students become adult size and have gone through puberty, their risk of spreading COVID-19 becomes like an adult,” Marsh said. “We’ve talked a lot about younger students, 15 and under, and particularly pre-pubertal students tend to have a much lower risk of catching COVID-19 and spreading it.”

High school will continue with virtual or remote-style learning only if a county is marked red. Previously, counties in red or orange were required to have virtual-only school. The governor has said counties and parents will still have the flexibility to decide what they feel is safest for their schools and children.

More information on the return to in-person school is expected to be discussed at Wednesday’s monthly West Virginia Board of Education meeting.

The governor also said Monday that he and his medical team are discussing expansion of the orange category on the state’s coronavirus map. He didn’t specify exactly what this would mean but did say more details would be made available on Wednesday during his virtual press briefing.

“We may very well be expanding the orange zone, which will allow us a little bit of additional freedoms in regard to our ability to go to school in orange,” Justice said. “And not be as restrictive as we have been.”

Last week, teachers and school service personnel over age 50 began receiving the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Some teachers have protested on social media the return to in-person learning on Jan. 19. Some have asked to continue with virtual-only learning until all teachers can receive both doses of the coronavirus vaccine.