Diocese’s Pre-K to Eighth-Grade Catholic Schools, Some of Its High Schools Reopen Jan. 19

By Colleen Rowan

WEST VIRGINIA—The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade Catholic schools and some of its high schools will open their doors back up to students Jan. 19 for in-person instruction, five days a week. “We are very excited about this good news!” Catholic Schools Superintendent Mary Ann Deschaine said in a Jan. 1 letter to school families. The news came from Gov. Jim Justice who announced in a press conference Dec. 30 that all West Virginia elementary and middle schools will reopen to in-person learning, five days each week on Jan. 19. Catholic and public high schools may open as long as they are in counties not designated as red on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) COVID-19 County Alert System Map. Schools began remote instruction Jan. 4 while preparations for transition to full-time, in-person instruction began. Preparations, Deschaine said, include logistical issues for individual schools and programs. “We will take the opportunity between now and Jan. 19 to continue to address these issues, with the intent of moving back to our traditional in-person format as soon as possible,” Deschaine said in her letter. A vital part of the preparation also includes the state’s offering of the COVID-19 vaccine to all teachers, service personnel, and other school employees age 50 and older. “Our Catholic school personnel have been offered the opportunity to participate in the WV vaccination program. We are very grateful to Gov. Justice for including our Catholic school personnel in the initial stages of the COVID vaccine roll-out,” Deschaine said in her letter. According to a press release from the governor’s office, vaccinations were made available Jan. 5 with an anticipated completion date of Jan. 19. Justice said the vaccine will then be offered to all teachers, service personnel, and other school employees under the age of 50. Justice also announced at the press conference that the state will no longer be using the West Virginia Department of Education’s COVID alert map and that the DHHR COVID-19 County Alert System Map now determines high school in-person instruction only. The map does not affect elementary and grade schools. “It doesn’t matter what color the DHHR County Alert Map System indicates for our pk- 8th grades students—they will be back in school, five days per week, for in-person instruction,” Deschaine said in her letter.  The diocese’s Catholic high school students, she said, will also return to in-person in- struction, five days per week, as long as their county is not designated red on the DHHR COVID- 19 County Alert Map. “If the county should turn red during the instructional week, the school must transition the next day to remote learning,” Deschaine said. Justice also announced at the press conference that win- ter sports and extracurricular activities are postponed until March 1. “This ordeal has been long, and it has caused a great deal of concern and angst,” Deschaine wrote in her letter. “However, we have been able to meet needs and reassure our children through the mutual support and encour-agement of all parents, parish communities, and school staff.  Thank you for your continued support!”