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HUNTINGTON — The Cabell County Board of Education on Tuesday voted to return to school on a three-day blended model, delaying a return to five-day, in-person instruction until all willing employees have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

A similar situation played out in Wayne County, where Board of Education members on Tuesday voted to follow a blended learning model that will include two days of in-person learning and two days of virtual instruction beginning Jan. 19.

For more than two hours, Cabell County board members and the superintendent heard public comment regarding the decision to return to in-person learning in Cabell County.

The delegations period at BOE meetings is typically restricted to 30 minutes, but the board voted to extend that period in order to hear from all individuals who had signed up to speak.

Several spoke against returning to five-day, in-person instruction, while others supported the idea. Many more settled in between and urged the board to resume live instruction on a blended model as they did during the fall semester.

The ultimate decision came after a discussion that lasted around 90 minutes and included two proposals from Superintendent Ryan Saxe and banter between board members.

In his initial proposal, Saxe recommended elementary, middle and high schools return to five-day, in-person instruction if Cabell County was green or yellow on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 risk map.

In his proposal, elementary and middle schools would have moved to a three-day blended model if the county was gold, orange or red, and high schools would follow that model closely but move to remote learning if the county turned red.

Board member Alyssa Bond motioned to approve the superintendent’s recommendation, which was seconded by Rhonda Smalley until it met criticism from Board President Mary Neely and member Carol Garrison.

The motion failed 2-3, with Bond and Smalley voting in favor, while Neely, Garrison and Skip Parsons opposed.

Board members unanimously approved a second proposal from Saxe, which allowed the county to transition to a three-day blended model until all employees who were willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine have received both doses, at which point the district would set a date to return to five-day, in-person learning.

A three-day blended learning model would divide students into two groups, similar to the two-day model that was practiced in the fall, but with an extra day of instruction for at least half of Cabell County’s students each week.

“We are increasing the number of days our blended model has so that we are maximizing face-to-face instruction for our students,” Saxe said.

During an “A” week schedule, students with last names beginning with A-K will have in-person learning Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and remote learning Thursday and Friday.

Students with last names beginning with L-Z will learn remotely Monday through Wednesday and have in-person learning Thursday and Friday.

During a “B” week schedule, students with last names beginning with L-Z will have in-person learning Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and remote learning Thursday and Friday. Students with last names beginning with A-K will learn remotely Monday through Wednesday and have in-person learning Thursday and Friday.

The approved plan also allows for Crossroads Academy and adult students at the Cabell County Career Technology Center to follow the elementary and middle school guidelines set by the county since there is a limited number of students at those locations.

The West Virginia State Board of Education is scheduled to meet Wednesday, with the expectation that they will allow counties to continue on a blended learning model until employees have been vaccinated.

Wayne County BOE members will discuss the use of the DHHR metrics map during a meeting Thursday after hearing from the state BOE.

Luke Creasy is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @HDcreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.

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