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UPDATE | Governor Justice responds to WVEA injunction over school re-entry map

School re-entry map from the WV Dept. of Education and WV DHHR.
School re-entry map from the WV Dept. of Education and WV DHHR.(WV DHHR)
Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 11:40 AM EDT
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UPDATE 10/5/20 @ 1:07 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has responded to the WVEA filing an injunction over the school re-entry map.

Gov. Justice called it “political” during a press conference Monday afternoon.

He says based on what he read and going by the Harvard model, a third to a half of the state of West Virginia would be shut down from the standpoint of schools.

Governor Justice says there’s a level of risk everywhere, whether we have schools open or shut the whole state down.

The governor says he and officials are just trying to make everyone safe.

This is a developing story.

Keep checking the WSAZ App for the latest information.

ORIGINAL STORY 10/5/20 @ 11:40 a.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The West Virginia Education Association has filed an injunction over the school re-entry map.

The WVEA sent a press release Monday morning.

Officials with the WVEA say they filed the injunction in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

“Our members have watched the constant manipulation of the map. As each rendition failed to provide the desired results sought by our state leaders, additional changes were made,” said WVEA President Dale Lee. “The only way to restore confidence in the process and ensure safety in our public schools is to adopt a new system from independent experts recognized in the field of infectious diseases and public health, such as the original color-coded map from Harvard.”

This filing seeks injunctive relief. This includes a temporary restraining order and the enforcement of the West Virginia Open Meeting Act as it pertains to the experts making changes to the map and the ‘Panel’ adjusting the map before it’s posted.

“We have seen the manipulation of the map’s colors and metrics on numerous occasions as protests occurred and pressure was placed on the governor. Now we are seeing the manipulation of the testing numbers as a result of the change made to the map using the positivity rate for counties to re-open,” says Lee. “The fact that the manipulation is occurring, and people are bragging about getting tested on multiple days show that the map and its metrics are not looking out for the safety of our students and employees and should not be used as the criteria for school re-opening.”

The WVEA says they believe the most recent changes to the map have been done to create an illusion of a ‘green map.’ Officials say they think this does not mean it is safe to return to in-person learning at this time.

“We know how important it is for students to be back in classrooms working with their teachers. No one wants in-person education more than our members, but they no longer feel their safety is the top priority of our state government’s leadership,” said Lee. "Our goal is for students to return to school as soon as possible but we must be able to do that safely based on the circumstances in individual counties.

The WVEA says manipulating the map doesn’t change the condition of the schools. They say space is limited and social distancing is difficult or impossible at times.

According to the WVEA, school employees are saying they don’t have enough PPE and mask wearing appears to be lax in many buildings.

“School employees are particularly impacted by the lack of social distancing and mask wearing,” adds Lee. “As the governor has stated many times, a large portion of our teaching population is older and more at risk for COVID. Over 2/3 of our members have identified that either they or someone in their immediate household have conditions that put them at risk.”

This injunction is to make sure there is safety in public schools in West Virginia by adopting a new system to figure out a school’s re-entry from independent experts recognized in the field of infectious diseases and public health, like the original color-coded map from Harvard, according to the WVEA.

This is a developing story.

Keep checking the WSAZ App for the latest information.

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