FAIRMONT — According to a Sunday night press release from Marion County Schools, there are positive COVID-19 cases associated with two students and five staff members in Mannington Middle, East Fairmont High, East Park Elementary and Fairmont Senior High schools.
Randy Farley, superintendent of Marion County Schools, said Marion County Health Department contact tracing has shown so far that COVID-19 has not spread from person to person within the schools themselves.
“We have a bit of an uptick there,” Farley said. “But a majority of what we’re seeing is mostly somehow coming from some event or something in the community in the schools. It’s mostly people get exposed elsewhere.”
Mandy Boylen, lead nurse for Marion County Schools, gave the Marion County Board of Education a review at its Nov. 16 meeting on the number of cases found in the school system.
“The total for the year with no school involvement six staff, 16 students, 22 total with 207 in quarantine,” Boylen said.
Farley said the school system is prepared to have its staff and students enter full remote learning on a dime if the situation calls for it, now that students are equipped with new Chromebook laptops to facilitate virtual learning options.
“We’re supposed to be ready to go into the remote mode at any time,” Farley said. “With the Chromebooks in place and the teachers having time to build instruction online as well as at school in-person, that is helping, so that shouldn’t be as big of a problem as it was in the spring when we weren’t at all prepared for that.”
Gov. Jim Justice announced last week public schools across the state will remain closed for the week after the Thanksgiving holiday. Farley said he hopes this will cut down on the number of COVID-19 cases entering the schools in Marion County.
“I think it’s all going to depend upon what people did during that time that they should be staying home, wearing a mask and being prudent about all the right things so it makes that time worthwhile,” Farley said.
According to Farley, the school system has not yet made plans for how classes will be held come 2021, but there have been discussions regarding potential changes to the current plan of having students select from two learning models. He said just like it did in the summer, the Marion County School system will send a survey to parents to get a handle on what the people want.
“We are having discussions about if we would come back four days a week what we may do,” Farley said. “We are going to be sending a survey out to parents to see how many would change their mind to know how to plan more appropriately for that.”
Farley said the results of the survey will factor into the school board’s decision on whether to adjust plans based on how many students switch models. With a limited number of options, he said planning for the future is important.
“Getting a commitment from people is what we really want to do in figuring that out,” Farley said. “Then when schools have to follow all the rules from all over the place about personnel, keeping class size limits, etc., how can you make it work with the number of kids in each strand with the staff you have.”