Board Of Ed Update-BCS Community

Jan. 13: Remote Learning Continues While Vaccines Deployed

BCS School Community:

I want to spend some time with you tonight providing some background information and updates on factors that have driven the how, when, and why decisions surrounding the return to school and the proposal acted upon by the board of education this evening.

Over the past few weeks, I have heard from some of you and thank you for reaching out. I ask that you recognize that we are listening to all stakeholders and are making decisions that are in the best interest of our students and staff both now and in the near future. As I have previously shared, this is a complex and dynamic situation with many moving parts. We are trying to take steps with our planning now so that we can be prepared for our full return.

Allow me to explain.

Over the holidays, Governor Justice announced that all students would continue on remote learning for the first two weeks of January and recommended that students PreK-8 return to a five-day schedule on January 19. Since the announcement, we have been reviewing local, state, and national statistics, having discussions with health care professionals and reading pro/con emails, articles and messages from our public. I want to reiterate that we are listening, learning, watching and having discussions with school and community leaders.

Students Need to be in the Classroom

We understand the need for students to be in the classroom. We agree that there is no substitute for face-to-face instruction. With that being said, we also understand the need to keep our students and employees safe and healthy. As the largest employer in Berkeley County, we have over 3000 employees and 19,250+ students in the school district, and the safety of these individuals is our number one concern. As with many communities, we have grandparents raising our students, employees and students in high- risk categories, and have witnessed the effects of COVID-19 on our families and schools.

Vaccine Deployment for BCS Staff

On Friday, January 8th, vaccine deployment began for BCS staff 50+ years of age. Berkeley County officials have begun the process of vaccinating the full community. The positivity rate in our community remains high and at this time, is not slowing down, but with the vaccines available in our community, there is hope on the horizon. We are looking forward to a lower transmission rate, slower spread and better trending numbers in the future. We must take steps now to have the school district in a better place so our students can have the possibility of enjoying the milestone moments that are typical at the end of the school year.

Reopening Plans at this Time

Our intent is to take a cautious and gradual approach to resuming normal, five-day instruction. At this time, Berkeley County Schools will continue remote learning until all BCS staff have had the opportunity to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. I do not have a hard and fast date for this but anticipate that to be late February to early March.

Another Scenario for Consideration

We need to be prepared for a delay in the rollout of vaccines that could push us further into March. Should the number of Covid cases in our community decline significantly ahead of the full staff vaccine deployment, we may choose to return to the Brick & Click pathways of instruction if our county turns Gold or better on the WVDHHR Daily Map. We are thinking ahead here so just be mindful this could occur.

After Full Deployment of Vaccine to BCS Staff

Following the full deployment of vaccine for staff, we will monitor the WVDHHR Daily Map twice per week, Sunday and Tuesday, and announce the instructional plan for the upcoming week. If our county is Red on Sunday, all students Prek-12, will observe remote instruction through Tuesday at which time we will check the map again. If our county is orange or better, we will return students to school as per the brick and click options previously selected this year.

Keep Your Eyes Open and Ears Tuned

I have a request of you. As BCS students, parents/caregivers, or employees, we must keep our eyes and ears open for those living among us that are struggling with basic resources, attendance, or instruction and make it discretely known to school administration. We have to continue taking care of each other.

Decisions being made right now are not easy ones and multiple factors and health information have been considered. Nothing is perfect and I understand that opinions will vary, but we have to err on the side of caution.

A Tremendous Amount of Thanks to You and Yours

We sincerely appreciate the support received from our students, families, staff and greater community. We know you have provided hours of structure and encouragement for our students. Everyone is tired. We understand but ask that you hang in there. We are hopeful that the spread of COVID 19 will begin to diminish over the next few weeks as vaccines continue to roll out, and that we can get back to some type of instructional normalcy very soon. We will continue to update you as quickly as we can as vaccine rollout continues and our community become healthier with fewer identified cases and quarantines. We recognize your need to plan for your household.

Stay safe. Be well.

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Patrick K. Murphy, Ed.D. Superintendent of Schools

This communication contains the most current information available at this time: Jan. 13, 2021at 6:00 pm.

Berkeley County Schools

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