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Education

W.Va. Senate Education Survey Seeks Input From K-12 Teachers; Vaccine Distribution For Educators Continues Across State

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A new online survey for K-12 teachers is seeking input from them on ways to improve the state's education system.

The survey was created by the West Virginia Senate Education Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Patricia Rucker, a Republican from Jefferson County.

The survey went live this week and can be found on the lower right corner on the home page of the West Virginia Legislature’s website.

The intent of the survey is to collect input from K-12 teachers for ideas or suggestions on ways to improve the state’s overall education system.

According to the West Virginia Senate’s Communications Director Jacque Bland, the survey has not been sent directly to any schools, but the committee plans “to send an invitation … to all teachers” to take the survey.

“Naturally, people organically sharing the link is a huge help in getting as many responses as possible, too,” Bland said.

It’s not yet been discussed how long the survey will remain live, but Bland said it’s likely to be available at least through the end of the upcoming state legislative session that convenes on Feb. 10.

State lawmakers have said responding to the pandemic would be a priority this session.

It has been a particularly challenging year for K-12 teachers as they have navigated teaching during the coronavirus pandemic -- from in-person, to hybrid, to blended, to virtual, to remote-style learning. There has been push and pull between state education officials and local education officials about the best teaching modalities.

There have been attempts by the state’s two largest teacher unions to keep teachers remote until all teachers could receive both doses of a coronavirus vaccine -- an effort that ultimately failed this week.

Gov. Jim Justice and Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch have said that in the fall 2020 semester, one-third of students received failing grades in at least one core subject. Both argue virtual and remote learning models are not conducive to effective learning.

As of this week, all 55 county school systems have returned to some form of in-person learning following some initial push back by seven counties.

State and federal health leaders say children from kindergarten to 8th grade do not transmit or become infected with COVID-19 at the rate adults do when key mitigation strategies are followed, such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

“Doing all the right mitigation measures, including testing, contact tracing, quarantining and cleaning, the rate of spread is very, very low in the classroom,” said West Virginia's coronavirus Czar Clay Marsh in Friday’s virtual press briefing with the governor. “In fact, the classroom setting is much lower than the transmission rates in the community.”

K-12 teachers and staff, 50 and older, began receiving the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 4. Justice said on Friday that by 5 p.m. on Jan. 29, all teachers age 50 and above who requested the vaccine in the first round will have received it.

“And let me be perfectly clear,” Justice said. “All school employees who are scheduled for a second dose will absolutely get their second dose and will receive them at school where they received their first dose … If you have gotten your first shot, you will get your second shot in the same place, right on time.”

Second doses for teachers are on schedule for the next couple of weeks, according to the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE).

Justice has also encouraged teachers and school personnel who have not received the vaccine yet to sign up for it through the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resource’s website. All West Virginians, regardless of age or profession, are encouraged to sign up.

More than 38,000 public school teachers and service personnel have been sent surveys to gauge interest in receiving a coronavirus vaccine, according to the WVDE. This number also includes staff from the WVDE, the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind and the West Virginia Schools for Diversion and Transition.

Of that figure, the WVDE said 30,086 have responded so far. About 67 percent of survey respondents indicated an interest in being vaccinated.

“Many, however, changed their answer after consulting with their doctor and subsequently were added to the vaccination lists,” said Christy Day, director of communications for the WVDE.

To date, the number of vaccines already or soon to be administered to teachers and school staff totals 21,440, according to the WVDE.


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