Students in Kanawha County Schools return to the classroom

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the first time in more than six months, students in Kanawha County Schools are back in the classroom this week.

The county was designated ‘gold’ on the West Virginia Department of Education on Saturday, opening the door for schools to hold in-person first the time this school year that began virtually on Sept. 8.

Kanawha County Schools spokesperson Briana Warner appeared on Monday’s 580-LIVE and said around 13,000 students, 53% in the county, are in classrooms under a blended learning model for the next two weeks. 47% of families, under 12,000 students, selected the all online learning model regardless if schools opened back up.

The number of students that selected in-person is cut in half again as students with the last names A-L go to school Monday and Tuesday. Students in the M-Z lettering go to the classrooms on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday is a cleaning day for schools as all students use eLearning.

“We are cutting the number of students in half in both classrooms and schools as a whole. That will mean fewer students, that will mean more opportunity for teachers to do hands-on training, some security reminders, safety reminders,” Warner said.

Dr. Jaclyn Swayne, in her first year as principal at St. Albans High School, said herself and school leaders have worked for months for the safest return. All schools around the state shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Putting in lots of new policies and procedures to ensure we follow all the guidelines to keep everybody safe. The lifeblood of a school is students so to finally have students back in the building is absolutely fabulous,” she said.

For St. Albans High School, 282 students are in school Monday and Tuesday and 230 go to the building Thursday and Friday. She said 55-60% of students at her school selected in-person learning.

Following the blended learning model in Kanawha County Schools for the next two weeks, schools are expected to move to a five day a week schedule with all students that selected in-person learning. That’s if Kanawha County remains a certain color on the WVDE map.

Swayne, a St. Albans native and ninth year as an administrator, said her community has rallied together during this time to make sure it’s a successful year no matter the twists and turns.

“The teachers, staff, parents, the community, and the students have truly taken in stride the myriad of changes and things that we have had to take on for this to work for everyone,” she said.

Horace Mann Middle School in Kanawha County is the only school remaining virtual this week. Warner said this comes as several staff members at the school are currently out for ‘precautionary’ isolation after a possible exposure to COVID-19.

“They currently only have one confirmed positive in the HM school community. However, it could be for various reasons. Staff person could be in isolation because completely unrelated to school, they have a family member or someone they have been in contact with who has tested positive and they need to isolate,” Warner said.