BOE prepares for back to school

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Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

At the September 1 Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, superintendent Terrence Beam, board office staff and principals gave an update on the re-entry plan for students and staff to return to school on September 8.

Board members asked about the accessibility of the virtual school option and director of curriculum, instruction and federal programs Lynne Bostic reported on the program which is provided through the West Virginia Department of Education.

“If we use our own teachers – and those teachers use the West Virginia Virtual Curriculum from the state department – we pay $160 per student for virtual school,” Bostic explained. “If we use West Virginia Virtual school staff and their curriculum, it’s $600 per student. The teacher has to be West Virginia certified, so it’s easier to do it with an elementary teacher because most of us are K-6 or K-8 certified in all core subjects.”

With high school virtual classes, Bostic said it would be more difficult because at that grade level, the teachers must have a higher certification in a particular field.

“We’re confident that we will have our elementary school certified teachers to cover our virtual school students on the elementary level,” she said.

Part of the plan to provide education to the students through distance learning was dependent on the board receiving grant funding, including a $1 million United States Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Services Distance Learning and Teaching Grant.

Director of technology Ruth Bland reported that, while the grant was awarded, it was far less than what was anticipated.

“We received $192,000 for the networks,” Bland said. “There were three priorities with that grant – one was the networks, of course. The other one was instructional and also the social and emotional wellbeing of the children, and I did do all three areas. I put in there to construct outdoor classrooms; also to bring everything in together with the health suite at the schools so nurses and counselors were in the same area. I also asked for money for virtual school.”

Bland said the majority of the grant requests were denied.

“When they returned the application to me, they said that they declined all building and renovations,” she said. “They declined virtual school because apparently we have our own money to do that. The only thing they would give me was the second priority which was the internet and technology equity, but they only did it for the networks for the three Title I schools. I cannot use it for the high school or for Marlinton Middle.”

While the funding will be useful to assist three of the five schools, Bland was disheartened.

“I got $200,000 roughly, but it was the most disappointing grant that I have ever been a recipient of because those are the things that we needed here in Pocahontas County, and I asked for a million and I got $200,000,” she said with emotion in her voice.

The funding will be used to purchase tablets for students to use for distance learning if schools are closed again for a long period of time.

In updates:

• Beam gave special recognition to an individual who made a donation to the school system after he visited the county in the spring.

Beam read a letter from Karl Hausch, of Warminster, Pennsylvania, who visited Snowshoe Mountain and Silver Creek resorts in March to ski his 100th mountain.

In his letter, Hausch explained that The Pocahontas Times did an article about his achievement and when he spoke to the reporter, he asked where he could make a donation as a thank you to the county for being a part of his journey.

“‘When asked where I could give a donation, she said Pocahontas County Schools,’” Beam read. “‘She’s a very nice lady thinking of others. I hope what I can give helps in these hard times for us all. Stay safe and be well. Your new friend, Karl Hausch.’”

Hausch sent a check for $333 for the board to use in any capacity.

Treasurer Sherry Radcliff told the reporter that she could chose where in the budget the money could be placed. After the meeting, the reporter asked Radcliff to give the donation to the Pocahontas County High School golf team, whose coach David Moore addressed the board earlier in the meeting, asking for funding.

In personnel management, the board approved the following:

• Employment of Cailey D. Moore as itinerate teacher of special education at Marlinton Elementary School, at state minimum salary based on degree and experience plus equity, effective August 25, for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. Term of employment is 194 days. Term of employment shall be 200 days each year thereafter, contingent upon obtaining proper certification.

• Employment of Michelle D. Wilfong as one-half time graduation coach at Pocahontas County High School, at state basic salary based on degree and experience, effective August 25, for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. Term of employment is 194 one-half days. Term of employment shall be 200 one-half days each year thereafter.

• Employment of Diane L. Delfino as mentor for Cailey D. Moore, effective for the 2020-2021 school year, at $22 per hour, not to exceed 50 hours or $1,100.

• Employment of Dottie L. Chestnut – Green Bank Elementary-Middle School; Caleb J. Barkley – Marlinton Elementary School; Ollie C. Barkley – Marlinton Middle School; Sarah J. Hedrick – Pocahontas County High School; and  Kevin A. Thompson, Hillsboro Elementary School – as evening custodians III, extracurricular, at $14 per hour, one day per week, three-and-a-half hours per day, effective September 11. This is an as needed, extracurricular position and contingent upon continued COVID-19 restrictions. Should all virtual or remote learning be enforced, this position will be delayed until students are present inside the school environment. Wages are contingent upon actually working the evening custodian III, extracurricular shift.

* Employment of Shelby Snead Bennett, Darla Huddle and Laura Solliday as substitute teachers for Pocahontas County Schools, at state basic pay, based on degree and experience, for the 2020-2021 school year, as needed.

• Resignation of Teresa W. Barb as academic interventionist at Marlinton Elementary School, retroactive to August 19.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, September 22, at 6 p.m., at the board of education conference room.