A West Virginia judge has denied attempts to halt or slow a return to in-person learning for pre-K through 12th grade classrooms across the state.
Kanawha County Judge Carrie Webster denied a temporary restraining order filed by the state’s two largest teacher unions. The unions wanted the court to reverse a recent ruling made by the West Virginia Board of Education that no longer allows fully remote learning in pre-K through 8th grade.
That ruling by the state board also requires high schools to return to in-person instruction unless a county is red on the state’s COVID-19 risk map. Virtual school is still available to all counties and grade levels.
The West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers filed the injunctions in an attempt to allow teachers and school service personnel time to receive both doses of a coronavirus vaccine before being forced to return to classrooms.
The action also sought to allow the decision of in-person learning to be made at the county level.
“Obviously, we are disappointed by the judge’s decision to deny the temporary restraining order,” said AFT-WV President Fred Albert. “We were hoping to secure time for our members to become fully vaccinated and protected during in-person instruction. However, we are respectful of the process and the opportunity to have the concerns of our members heard before the court.”
Albert said he still believes the decision regarding in-person versus remote learning are best left to the local boards of education who are elected by the citizens. The state Board of Education is not. Instead, nine of its eleven members are appointed by the governor.
WVEA President Dale Lee also released a statement and agreed with Albert, saying the state school board “took options away from county boards.”
“Decisions to teach in-person, remotely, hybrid and online should be a local decision, made by those who are the most impacted and who best understand how to best educate students safely,” Lee said. “While some areas may be able to safely return to in-person learning, for others it is an entirely different situation. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ does not fit the learning needs all [sic] of our students … in the middle of a pandemic.”
State health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported children do not spread the coronavirus at the rate adults do.
All 55 county school systems are in compliance with the state board’s demands, following some initial push back by seven counties.
Vaccinations for teachers and school staff age 50 and older began in early January, and is continuing across the state.