UPDATE 12/30/2020 - Calhoun Schools Superintendent Kelli Whytsell has clarified the governor's press conference, saying Calhoun Schools will be full remote for all grades until Jan 19. After January 19, high school will depend on the DHHR color map, indicating more information will be released next week.

12/30/20 - Citing failing grades and suspected abuse of some at-risk children, Gov. Jim Justice announced Wednesday that the state’s elementary and middle schools would return to five-day-a-week in-person instruction on Jan. 19 regardless of what the COVID-19 map says about the spread of the virus in their counties.

All schools in the state will be on remote instruction beginning Jan. 4 until Jan. 19. Parents who have chosen the remote/virtual option for their children can remain with that option.

Justice said the school decision is based on information that shows that remote learning is in large part failing. He said it’s believed that as many as one-third of the student population has failed at least one core class this school year.

Justice said high schools would also reopen to in-person instruction on Jan. 19 unless the county in which the school is located is ‘red’ on the COVID-19 daily map.

The state Department of Education said Justice’s announcement means the Saturday school alert map would no longer be used.

Burch, Justice and state Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh also cite studies that show the transmission of COVID-19 is very low among younger children.

“The governor understands the data is undeniable,” Burch said in a statement. “I fully support this decision because we know that heightened transmission rates experienced in communities are not reflected within the schools because of the mitigations in place.”

Justice said county boards of education would still maintain local control over school decisions but he said he hoped that would agree with him that younger students need to be back in school as soon as possible.

Justice also announced all school-associated winter sports would be pushed back to a March 1 start-up date.

As part of the in-person instruction return, Justice said COVID-19 vaccinations would be made available to teachers and service personnel over the age of 50 beginning next week.