Questions remain about back-to-school plan

Managing all public schools in West Virginia as if the COVID-19 epidemic was affecting them the same way makes no sense at all. Gov. Jim Justice was right to announce Wednesday that state officials will make school decisions on a county-by-county basis.

Now, to address that devil that is the details.

During his Wednesday press conference, the governor said reopening schools on Sept. 8 remains his goal. However, the situation in each county will dictate whether schools there can open — and, down the road, whether they can remain open.

A color-coded system will be used for counties, Justice said. Each will be designated as green, yellow, orange or red. It sounds much like an evaluation program already in effect in Ohio.

Decisions on which category a particular county fits into will be on the basis of COVID-19 cases, disease transmission rates and other factors related to the epidemic. But precisely how will that work?

For example, will Webster County, which on Wednesday showed no active COVID-19 cases, merit a green rating? Will Kanawha, where 312 people were battling the disease Wednesday, be an automatic red?

Additionally, exactly what will the ratings mean to a school system? Presumably, a county in the green could offer in-person public school classes five days a week. But what about yellow or orange? Would all instruction have to be via the internet, or would students be permitted to be in school two or three days a week?

Knowing more about how the rating system will affect schools will help both educators and parents plan for the new academic year.

Of course, knowing where a county stands this week may be of no value. As we have seen, the COVID-19 situation can change drastically within a few days.

Still, Justice and his public health advisers should determine on and reveal details of their plan as soon as possible.


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