Berkeley County schools struggle with virtual learning vs. in-class instruction

West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — For Berkeley County parents and teachers there is anxiety as the start of the school year approaches.

Their choice is “brick” it or “click” it. Return to the classroom or launch the school year virtually? Just weeks from the start of the fall term, that is the question facing the education community here, and on a day when ZOOM technology crashed no less. But some teachers here don’t believe the board of education is implementing proper COVID-19 health and safety protocols. And there are concerns that at a teachers’ orientation a participant had tested positive for the coronavirus. Where does that leave parents and their children? There is no easy answer.

“There are some families that just have to get back to work,” says Dr. Terrence Reidy, Berkeley County health officer. “And providing constant child care for their child is too difficult. Or they don’t have good internet connectivity.”

Dr. Reidy has called on these teachers to quarantine. Meanwhile, the Berkeley County Education Association — the teachers’ organization — has called for a delay in new teacher orientation for the safety of its members and students, saying they don’t want to be “forced to take unnecessary risks,” a scenario parents clearly grasp, according to the county’s top health officer.

“They understand they are taking an increased risk with their child being exposed to the infection,” says Dr. Reidy.

As for the school system, Superintendent Patrick Murphy will only say that he is preparing for a safe return to the classroom. But Monday afternoon he issued a statement saying, he is “truly sorry” for the exposure at the faculty orientation to a teacher who had tested positive for the coronavirus and that strong health and safety practices are of the highest priority.

Classes are set to resume September 8.

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