In-person learning to continue in W.Va. following judge’s ruling

Judge Carrie Webster hears arguments from West Virginia teacher's unions and the Department of...
Judge Carrie Webster hears arguments from West Virginia teacher's unions and the Department of Education over returning to in-person instruction.
Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 4:01 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - There has been a ruling on the lawsuit involving the WVEA and AFT lawsuits.

According to Judge Carrie Webster, their requests have been denied.

The West Virginia Education Association filed a temporary restraining order and an injunction in connection to in-person learning in West Virginia earlier this month.

The AFT-WV also says they have filed a complaint in Kanawha County Circuit Court to protect the health and safety of students, teachers and the community in West Virginia last week.

The judge agreed that an indoor setting is more risky than remote learning and vaccination is a much better tool at stopping spread than social distancing and masks.

Judge Webster says there is no certainty that someone will be harmed by the threat of the virus in schools. She says hospitals, jails and grocery stores are open and those employees are at a greater risk than those in schools.

“Even the (State Board of Education’s) attorney said this is as long as you follow all the mitigation measures in place,” WVEA President Dale Lee said. “Well, they have taken one of those measures away insisting that all of our elementary and middle schools go five days per week in-person. You have to have that remote option when the numbers are so high that everyone is at risk in that county.”

The judge also says there is no certainty a restraining order would make an impact since they can’t guarantee teachers will be vaccinated within the ten days that it covers.

Schools will stay open after this ruling. The state school board does have the authority to make decisions that are in the best interest of students.

Judge Webster didn’t grant the motion to dismiss the case, just denied it. More briefings could be filed.

AFT-WV President Fred Albert released the following statement: “Obviously, we are disappointed by the judge’s decision to deny the temporary restraining order; we were hoping to secure time for our members to become fully vaccinated and protected during in-person instruction. However, we are respectful of the process and the opportunity to have the concerns of our members heard before the court. AFT-WV still believes these decisions are best left to the local boards of education, who are elected by the citizens of their communities to govern their local schools.”

In another statement, AFT-WV attorney Jeff Blaydes said, “While we are disheartened by today’s decision, it’s not necessarily the end of our legal efforts for our members. I will be meeting with Fred and the AFT-WV team during the next 24 hours to evaluate and decide our legal options moving forward in order to best serve the union’s members and protect their safety.”

This is a developing story.

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