Judge denies WV teachers union request to work from home

West Virginia Judge, Carrie Webster, denies the West Virginia Education Association’s (WVEA) request to maintain virtual learning until all teachers have a vaccine available to them.  

The request comes out of concern for the potential exposure teachers receive from their students when they are present in the classroom. This unprecedented case out of Kanawha County will set the tone for any future injunctions in the state. 

Marissa Dillon, a member of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, believes the federation should decide whether the schools should maintain a virtual schedule at the local level and on a county-by-county basis. 

“My biggest concern opening back five days a week where all students come back to school is that you cannot socially distance. It is physically impossible when teachers have 30 kids in a classroom,” Dillon said.  

Dillon is finding the most effective method of learning in the current environment is with a blended schedule. “I believe this is the best choice because it allows students to come to school and get that in-person learning while also keeping the population down to half.”  

The current schedule has students attending two days one week and three days the next; this allows for five in-person instructor days every two weeks. 

Kristi Booton, an English teacher at Wayne High School, agrees with the judge’s decision to resume a blended environment since the most at-risk population has already received their vaccinations.  

“Most students don’t have the skills to prioritize their education on their own and need more support and guidance from teachers in order to be successful. I feel that that is lacking with virtual learning,” Booton said.  

Booton believes the students reach full potential from a traditional classroom, where she currently feels safe. “The school system is working hard to keep things sanitized and safe for students and teachers.”  

Teachers are currently prioritized as essential workers. As of Friday, Jan. 29, Gov. Jim Justice announced that all teachers over the age of 50 who initially opted for the vaccine have received their first dose.  

Those who missed the sign-up deadline are currently left waiting. All teachers remain a priority on the vaccination list; however, it is unclear when they will receive their vaccinations.  

Public schools continue to rely on the color-coded map to dictate what teaching/learning style they will adhere to each week.

Cassidy Waugh can be contacted at [email protected]