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Protesters gather at W.Va. Capitol to advocate for students return to in-person learning

Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 9:22 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Tuesday marked the first day of school across counties in West Virginia.

Traci Quillen, a parent of three students in Putnam County, expected her children to return to the classroom for in-person instruction. Instead, the County Alert System announced Putnam County was orange on Saturday. The district would begin the first day of school with remote learning.

Quillen and her children were among nearly 30 protesters who gathered Tuesday at the Capitol, advocating for students to return to in-person learning.

“We, as parents, are advocating for our children’s rights for educational advancement. Statistics show that virtual and distance learning is not optimal for children to get their education,” Quillen said. “Based on the facts of what the numbers show, the risk of this virus, the fact of our kids not being in school is far greater.”

High school football coach Gideon Jarvis says he sees the importance on and off the field for a choice in how children receive an education. He’s also concerned with the districts that face broadband connection struggles across the state.

“I am from a county where we don’t have internet access to do virtually. You are telling kids you have no education this week,” Jarvis, a Mingo County football coach, said. “The education system is trying, but we don’t have the accessibility to do a virtual education.”

As a parent himself, West Virginia State Superintendent Clayton Burch acknowledged the protesters' frustrations.

“A lot of the protesters here are from my community. I think maybe some realize and some don’t realize I want my children in school, too,” Burch said." I am not a health expert, but I do trust the experts who worked to put together this map."

Gov. Jim Justice echoed that sentiment.

“I understand their frustration because I want everybody to go back to school," Justice said. “That’s for sure, but at the same time I have got to defer to the experts. Right now, we have a real situation. It’s fluid.”

Copyright 2020 WSAZ. All rights reserved.

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