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Gov. Justice Announces West Virginia Schools to Remain Closed for Rest of Academic Year

CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials yesterday for his daily press briefing regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.

Gov. Justice announced today that all pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools in West Virginia will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year.

“I was really hopeful and I tried in every way to get us to where we would be able to go back to school because I know how much the kids would appreciate it…just the excitement of the kids going back and seeing their friends and their teachers,” Gov. Justice said. “But I’ve promised you over and over that I would never put you in a position that could be harmful. I promised that I would try to protect you in every way. And the bottom line is that this is what we have to do to protect everyone.”

School buildings and facilities will remain closed while remote learning continues through the end of the school year. Meal delivery programs for students will also continue to operate through the end of the school year.

Gov. Justice also encouraged all schools statewide to begin looking for ways to safely hold graduation ceremonies to celebrate the academic accomplishments of outgoing seniors across West Virginia.

“We need to graduate our seniors,” Gov. Justice said. “I would urge each and every school to try to find a way, over the course of the summer, to celebrate their accomplishments.

“I hate this like crazy for our families who have kids that have worked so hard for so long to be able to receive that diploma,” Gov. Justice continued. “It is so meaningful to lots and lots of families and lots of lots of kids. So, again, I would urge all schools to find a way to pull a celebration off.

“For all the children who are out there, please continue to try and keep up with your studies and all the stuff that you’re doing right now. Run through the finish line. Accomplish all you can accomplish this year.”

State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch joined the Governor on Tuesday for the announcement.

“Governor Justice has shown great leadership in the face of very difficult circumstances. He took this decision very seriously,” Superintendent Burch said. “I know he really was optimistic that our children would have some time together and the end of the school year and just came to a realization that it was going to be really tough. And decisions of that magnitude are really, really difficult to make.

“So, I can tell you that being in his presence and watching him go through that process to come to this conclusion was really, really tough. But we also were very clear with the Governor that our school systems are ready. We believe that our children, all 260,000 of them in public schools, are being supported by our system.”

The announcement that schools will remain closed provides a framework for counties to plan for the end of the school year.
A Graduation Task Force, which consists of West Virginia Board of Education members, county administrators, state PTA members, educators, and WVDE staff, continues to address issues surrounding high school graduation and creating a smooth transition for graduates moving toward the next phases of their lives.

Counties will work with their boards of education and local health departments to determine details around graduation ceremonies which may look very different than in years past. The WVDE will post updated school calendar information this week at wvde.us/COVID19.

On Tuesday, Superintendent Burch provided additional updates on ways the West Virginia Department of Education and others are working to improve opportunities for students during this challenging time.

“The College Board has come forward. They’re going to make sure there are no gaps in children who are taking the AP Exam, they’re going to make sure those are available to them,” Superintendent Burch said. “The Higher Education Policy Commission has come forward to help us make sure all dual credits are complete – that all students finish that. We are also making sure that all children that are in a CTE program have the ability to finish and become a CTE completer.”

Burch also announced that the WVDE is going to cover the cost of all virtual school for high school students this summer and reported that any junior who missed the SAT will be able to take the exam in the fall for free.

Also today, Gov. Justice discussed students in higher education who are in-line to receive money from the federal government. The Governor said that while the money has not been distributed to the State yet, it is expected soon. And once it arrives, the funding will be distributed quickly.

“I know college students and their families are eager to receive these funds,” Gov. Justice said. “Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Sarah Tucker has assured me that as soon as our colleges and universities receive the money from the federal government, they will be distributing it to the students.”