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Logan County Education Association President Leah Clay Stone reads the results of an employee and parent survey regarding COVID-19 re-entry protocols during a special session of the Logan County Board of Education on Monday.

LOGAN — The Logan County Education Association has released results from surveys of both employees and parents in the county regarding the county’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey results were presented at the Logan County Board of Education’s special session Monday by LCEA President Leah Clay Stone. The employee survey was completed Jan. 2, and the parent survey was completed Jan. 3. Topics in both included in-person instruction, remote learning options, approval of how the county has handled the re-entry process and approval of how positive cases and exposures have been reported to staff and the public.

The surveys come hot on the heels of Gov. Jim Justice’s Dec. 30 announcement that all elementary and middle schools in the state will return to a five-day in-person instruction week on Jan. 19 — with high schools also doing the same as long as the county isn’t red on the West Virginia Department of Education’s map.

In the employee survey, in which 97% of respondents identified themselves as employees of Logan County Schools, 90% said they are not comfortable with the five-day in-person instruction on Jan. 19. In the parent survey, in which 99% identified themselves as parents of students attending schools in Logan County, 74% of respondents said they were not comfortable with it.

For a four-day in-person model, 66% of employees surveyed were uncomfortable with it, while 60% of parents were comfortable with it.

Suggestions for safely returning made by employees include:

  • No more than 12 students per room to allow for social distancing.
  • Both vaccine doses administered, and time for immunity to be built.
  • County not orange or red on map.
  • Plexiglass/acrylic shields/dividers provided for teacher desks and student tables.
  • Mandatory masks for all ages.
  • Go back to blended model (two days in person/three days virtual).
  • Ensure enough substitutes to stop classes combining/covering.

Suggestions for safely returning made by parents include:

  • Wait for this surge to be over.
  • Smaller class size to allow for social distancing.
  • Lower numbers of infection and positives.
  • Both vaccine doses administered, and time for immunity to be built.
  • County not orange or red on map.
  • More custodians.

Employee respondents who said they would take the vaccine when it is made available to them totaled 68%. When asked if they had enough sick days to get through a quarantine or COVID-19 related illness, 59% said they do not, with some indicating that they will hide symptoms or work through sickness.

Over half of respondents — 51% — said they would be willing to take an unpaid “work action” if school/instruction continues as scheduled.

Almost three-fourths — 73% — of employees said they disapprove of how Logan County Schools has handled the re-entry process; 70% disapprove of how Logan County Schools has handled reporting of positive cases and exposures to staff and the public. That’s higher than how parents responded — with 51% saying they disapprove of the handling and 57% disapproving of how cases are reported.

Based on the results of the survey, Clay Stone, representing the WVEA, asked the LCBOE to “exercise local authority and only transition to in-person instruction when it is safe,” including using the map for all levels, allowing all vaccinations to take place and for social distancing protocols to be strictly followed.

In response to the survey, Superintendent Patricia Lucas said she thought the county made the best decisions they could with the ever-changing situation they have been dealt.

“I appreciate Mrs. Stone and her bringing comments to us, but we shut down in March until the end of the school year, and then we had to reopen, and we had to do a re-entry plan,” Lucas said. “We truly did what I felt was an appropriate way to get our parents, our students, our staff involved. We did a survey, and we have all of those comments, and we certainly did not change any of the comments. It was a collective re-entry plan. Certainly, I wish we had the perfect answer for everything, but with such hard work for everyone — from the central office to the schools — we had to make a decision, we had to submit a plan to the state board, but we did that, I felt, with as much input as they offered to us and we had to make lots of adjustments and changes as we were trying to re-enter.”

Lucas added that she, along with the rest of the central office administration, feels the same pressures that employees do. She said that decisions have to be made and plans are adjusted according to guidance handed down by Gov. Jim Justice and the WVDE.

“We have had to be able to make adjustments and changes quickly,” Lucas said. “When the governor has something to say, we’re not told prior to. We hear it when everyone else hears, and I know a lot of people may think that we have prior knowledge, but we do not, and we have to make those adjustments as he hands them down to us, and we follow up with meetings with our state superintendent, and we get guidance from them, from his staff.

“We have never been in a situation like this, and we do feel the pressure,” Lucas added. “We do feel. We get down, yes we do, and I know the staff does, and I never, ever want them to think that they’re not appreciated, because they are — they’re valued — but sometimes, things just get in the way and we’re trying to make the decisions and we may not make them as quickly because we’re waiting on guidance — continued guidance that they tell us that we need to wait for.”

Lucas said that after Justice’s Dec. 30 announcement, administration had a follow-up call with the state superintendent, and the county was not given a choice in what to do.

“We were not given a choice,” Lucas said. “It says to us, in the guidance that they have given us, students WILL return. It doesn’t say that they may return and that we can make a decision contrary to what they stated. Those are the guidance that I received and that we have to adhere to, and we have to listen to our health department.”

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resource’s update of their county alert system map at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Logan County is currently red along with 47 other counties. The other seven counties are orange.

As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, Logan County has 297 active cases of COVID-19 with 32 hospitalizations. Overall, there have been 1,832 cumulative cases recorded, with 1,476 recoveries and 59 deaths.

HD Media news reporter Dylan Vidovich can be contacted via email at dvidovich@HDMediaLLC.com.