Public schools’ opening delayed until Sept. 8 in West Virginia

BUCKHANNON – West Virginia Public Schools won’t open until Sept. 8, the governor announced Wednesday.

In the wake of 147 new COVID-19 cases cropping up Tuesday, Gov. Jim Justice said he was pushing the start date of public schools back three weeks to Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Justice said the state’s percentage of positive tests, which has hovered “significantly below 3 percent” up until Tuesday, had spiked to 5.08 percent.

“That’s not good. That’s not good at all,” Justice said.

Justice said his responsibility “first and foremost” is the safety of West Virginia children, teachers, administrators, service personnel and their families.

“Trust me, no one wants us to go back to school more than I do and more than our state superintendent Clayton Burch does,” Justice said. “And we are absolutely, totally ready to go back to school today. We have plans in place … But in this situation, I’ve got to look out first and foremost for our kids and teachers and service personnel and right on down the line to our families.”

Justice said that “at the end of the day, I am going to do what I think is the most safe and the best situation for our kids.”

“This is a moving target like you cannot believe,” he said, “and we do not know the level of exposure we will be putting kids and service personnel and teachers up against, and with that, I can absolutely assure you that I’m not going to move until I’m absolutely as sure as I can be that kids are going to be safe.”

Upshur County Schools had been set to open schools to students on Aug. 19, 2020.

Justice said with the uncertainty caused by the virus, sometimes the best course of action is to “stand still.”

“We don’t want to jump to the left or jump to the right quickly if there’s a rattlesnake 10 feet away,” he said, “so we’re going to stand still, and look to left and to the right and behind [us] and then you plot a course. That is the very best course, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Also on Wednesday, Justice threatened to add a penalty to his executive order requiring residents to wear a mask in indoor public areas if West Virginians did not comply with it.

“I entrust West Virginians to handle that and handle that from standpoint of being on an honor system,” the governor said, “but if you can’t, we’ll have to look at some more strenuous level of penalty.”

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