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AFT-WV Follow Up Statement on Jan. 19 In-Person Instruction Mandate

AFT-WV Follow Up Statement on Jan. 19 In-Person Learning Mandate Regardless of COVID Infection Rate

Today, AFT-West Virginia filed a request, consistent with the provisions of the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act (W. Va. Code 29B-1-1, et seq) for the following information:

1)            A copy of the letter signed by all 55 County Superintendents asking to return to in-school or face-to-face instruction for elementary and middle school.

2)            All data, documentation, and information collected regarding confirmed school related COVID-19 cases and outbreaks.

3)            All school grading data or the aggregate data you referenced stating that over one third of students on remote or virtual are failing. 

AFT-West Virginia will communicate the findings of this request after it has been provided to us and reviewed.

A survey for AFT members will launch later today to assess opinions and thoughts regarding the Governor’s announcement from last week regarding in-person school attendance.  The survey will be available on AFT-WV’s various digital platforms. Please respond by 11:59 PM on Wednesday, January 6.

AFT-WV President Fred Albert will conduct an emergency zoom meeting this evening with the executive board and local presidents to discuss the governor’s plan and to strategize our options to protect the health and safety of employees and students.

Additionally, a joint meeting of the leadership of AFT-WV, WVSSPA and WVEA will be held this week to discuss the same.

Since the onset of the pandemic, AFT-WV’s message has been clear and consistent: Our members want to return to schools, but ONLY when it is safe for staff and students. The Governor’s announcement to return to in-person learning on Jan. 19 comes at a time our state is experiencing record numbers of infections, deaths and hospitalizations. This abrupt about face by Governor Justice has educators and parents scratching their heads in confusion.

“If it is safe to return to 5 day a week, in-person learning in our schools, then why did the Governor delay winter sports? Classrooms are certainly smaller than gymnasiums. If it is safe to return to 5 day a week, in-person learning in our schools, then should we expect the state Board of Education will reopen their meetings to the public and the West Virginia Department of Education will reopen their offices to the public? Will Governor Justice now be conducting his press briefings in-person to allow the full participation of the media, rather than in a virtual format?” wondered AFT-WV President Fred Albert.

“Everyone yearns to get back to normalcy. But to get there, we need a plan that protects staff, students and vulnerable members of our community. It’s time the Governor used the CARES Act money to implement an accelerated vaccination plan of school employees who wish to be inoculated. Additionally, elderly or immunocompromised guardians of public school students should also be offered the vaccine to prevent asymptomatic students from bringing the virus home to their caregivers. If returning to in-person instruction is the priority of the Governor, he needs to implement and execute a plan that protects the health and safety of those in the school community,” explained Albert.

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