School Reopening FAQ's
School Re-opening FAQ’s
Q: Why are we going back to the school buildings?
A: Mercer County Schools has been charged with opening schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Health and safety guidelines from the WVDE and WVDHHR are throughout our reopening plan. Going 100% remote is not an option for Mercer County due to the number of students who do not have internet access at home, therefore a 100% remote model would be reserved for an uncontrolled outbreak of the pandemic in our area and a directive to do so from the governor.
Q: Why are the days shortened?
A: The first reason is so custodial staff have ample time to deep clean the buildings.
The second is bus transportation. There are limitations to the number of students who can ride a bus. The shortened days and staggered start and ending times between elementary, middle, and high schools allows for more bus runs which means buses aren’t as crowded.
The third reason is it allows us to have smaller class sizes in the school buildings. During a normal day, teachers have a planning period and a duty-free lunch period in between teaching students. In both models, teachers’ planning periods and duty-free lunches are outside of the students’ instructional day. Therefore, that gives us more teachers to put into the classes which reduces class size.
Q: Why is there such a limited drop off time in the mornings?
A: On a normal day, some buses drop students off over an hour before the instructional day begins. Students would congregate in cafeterias and gyms until it was time to go to the classroom. We can no longer have large groups of students congregating. When students arrive at school, they go directly to their classroom.
Some schools will not start the instructional day exactly on time due to the sheer numbers of students and staff having to monitor hallways to keep kids moving, and that is understood. Some slight adjustments may be made after the school year starts.
Parents and buses may not drop students off until the documented time because we must ensure all teachers are present to receive their students and, in some cases, state mandated planning periods and duty-free lunches are at the beginning of the day.
Q: What about working parents who have students at multiple schools with different drop off times?
A: We understand this is a hardship for many. Mercer County Schools are bound to the guidelines provided by the WVDE and WVDHHR. We must try to keep class sizes smaller, create less crowding on buses, and follow rigorous cleaning protocol. As soon as the risk of Covid-19 is at a level where public health officials and the WVDE feel is manageable, we will go back to a normal schedule.
If your children are attending in-district schools, our school buses are always an option.
Q: I have a child in elementary and a child in middle school. How will they get to school on the bus since the start times are different?
A: Your elementary child will need to be at the bus stop earlier, and your middle school child later. Again, this is to maintain social distancing as much as possible on the bus.
Q: Why does my child have to wear a mask or face covering?
A: The CDC says one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of Covid-19 is the wearing of face coverings. The CDC and WVDE requirement is that masks or face coverings are required when social distancing cannot be maintained or if students are outside their regular classroom and/or cohort. In elementary school, students will be with their class and teacher the entire day. Resource teachers will either come to them or conduct class via video conferencing. In middle and high school, student schedules are being arranged to keep groups together as much as possible. While students are in their own classrooms, they will not have to wear a mask. However, if they are not in their cohort group, they will be required to wear a mask. If they are moving throughout hallways or in the restrooms, they will be required to wear a mask. Masks will also be required on school buses. If there is a documented medical reason why a student cannot wear a mask, they will be exempt.
Q: Is there a virtual option?
A: Yes. The West Virginia Virtual School is available through the WVDE. Students who choose this option will be assigned to a teacher hired by the WVDE. There may be some instances that a student’s virtual teacher is a Mercer County teacher, but sufficient enrollment for a full class would be necessary first. Students of the West Virginia Virtual School are still considered public school students and can participate in extra-curricular activities within their district school. Students may return to the regular school setting with a one week notice before a grading period ends (9 weeks). The link to sign up for virtual school is: https://tinyurl.com/virtualschoolapplication
Q: Will the school bus drop my child off at daycare after school?
A: We are continuing to work on arranging transportation to daycares that are within the school’s attendance area. We will not be able to complete the process until we get firm numbers on the occupancy of the buses.