CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Schools in four counties affected by the water ban will remain closed today but the state Department of Education is hopeful some may reopen Wednesday as the water company has OK'd flushing water lines by zone.
Schools in Kanawha, Putnam, Lincoln and Boone counties remained closed to students Tuesday, marking three missed instructional days since Thursday's chemical spill.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for nine counties as the chemical known as crude MCHM leaked out of a storage unit at Freedom Industries into the Elk River just above West Virginia American Water's water intake.
The spill prompted a "do not use" order for West Virginia American Water customers in Kanawha, Putnam, Jackson, Roane, Clay, Boone, Logan, Lincoln counties and a small part of Cabell County.
H.E. White Elementary School in Bomont, Clay County and Culloden Elementary School in Culloden, Cabell County reopened today though the schools were in areas that remained under the ban, said Liza Cordeiro, state Department of Education spokeswoman.
Cordeiro said the school boards in Clay and Cabell counties spoke to the health departments in their areas and were bringing in meals and water for students at those schools.
She said the plan is to follow West Virginia American Water's flushing protocols and to have school kitchens fully operational in Kanawha, Putnam, Lincoln and Boone counties with the OK from local health departments before students returned.
Cooks, custodians and maintenance staff were at schools in Kanawha County to begin cleaning surfaces and start the flushing process. She said staff members were taking a team approach to preparing the schools for the return of students.
Three zones covering Charleston's downtown, East End and Kanawha City, along with South Charleston, Jefferson and parts of St. Albans were allowed to flush and use water as of 7 p.m. Monday, according to the water company's website.
Cordeiro said education officials were hopeful all schools would be open Wednesday, but would make the determination later today if another instructional day would be missed.
She said it had not yet been decided whether the students would make up the days missed. Cordeiro said state law allows the Department of Education to waive those days but that the State Superintendent James Phares wanted to wait until this incident was over to make the decision.
Students at the University of Charleston will return to normal operation Thursday, according to a message posted on the university's Facebook page. The university was given permission Monday afternoon to begin flushing all of its water lines. Students will be able to move back into residence halls starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Students at West Virginia State University had not yet returned to class when the incident occurred. Though the university was closed Monday, the spring semester still is scheduled to begin Jan. 21. New Student Orientation is set for Thursday.
New students may move in to dormitories from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Wednesday. Returning students may move in to dormitories from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
"Please know that all WVSU decisions that have been, and will be, made during this situation are done so with student and employee health and safety as our No. 1 priority," according to a page on the university's website devoted to the water crisis.
"The University is adhering to all necessary and appropriate health protocols."
For information on West Virginia State University's schedule, visit <f"SansBlackCondensed">www.wvstateu.edu/Current-Students/Water-Crisis-FAQ.aspx<f"DMCrown">.
For information on the University of Charleston's schedule, visit <f"SansBlackCondensed">ucwv.edu/EmergencyNotification<f"DMCrown">.
For information on state school closings, visit <f"SansBlackCondensed">wvde.state.wv.us/closings<f"DMCrown"> or follow <f"SansBlackCondensed">@wvsnowday<f"DMCrown"> on Twitter.
@tagline:Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.cr...@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4850.