At Monday night’s Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, Spanish teacher Shirlene Groseclose addressed concerns about plans for a trip to Costa Rica. The trip would involve six students and three chaperones.
At its February 8 meeting, the board tabled approval of the trip due to concerns about the Zika virus which is thought to cause birth defects and other health related issues among those who contract the virus.
While there are unknown factors about the virus, medical experts say it is primarily transmitted through mosquito bites, and it is prevalent in South American countries.
Groseclose said she has done some research and she is up-to-date with the news about the Zika virus, and does not feel it is a concern for her students or the adults going on the trip.
“It would be a concern for pregnant women because it’s theorized that it’s a cause of microcephaly in some pregnant women,” she said. “But, if you have been keeping up with the news, it is now believed that the actual cause of the microcephaly in the Brazilian women is the use of larvicide in the water.”
Groseclose said there is a misconception about how often people are bitten by mosquitoes.
“For example, in Puerto Rico there is Dengue [Fever] which is transmitted by a mosquito bite,” she said. “ I lived there many, many years and I never once got Dengue.”
Groseclose has kept the parents and everyone involved in the trip informed about concerns and issues that may arise prior to the trip. She has also kept in contact with the travel agency, EF Educational Tours, to make sure the group will be safe to travel to Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
“With the information we have, EF did say if there are any pregnant women or women planning on getting pregnant, they would then refund them, but there’s not really a concern for the groups that are traveling,” Groseclose said. “I truly understand your concern, and I understand that it was something that, just knowing the facts out there, that you couldn’t just say, ‘yes, let’s approve it.’”
Groseclose has posted information on the Costa Rica trip Facebook page and has kept in touch with parents through social media to help them better understand the situation. She said only one parent voiced concern, but after learning more about the virus, she is no longer worried about sending her daughter on the trip.
“I also had a meeting last week and I asked if anybody was concerned and no one had concerns,” Groseclose said. “It’s not a big group. If there’s anybody that is going to keep them covered in bug spray and protected, I’m going to do it.”
The six students will be accompanied by Groseclose, Diana Collins and Emily Gibson.
The board thanked Groseclose for addressing its concerns.
Board attorney Bob Martin said he felt the board should have everyone going on the trip sign a release form which states that the trip is a voluntary event and clears the board of education of any liability for any incidents which may happen during the trip.
Martin has been working on a release form for all events which are voluntary but still school related.
The board approved the Costa Rica trip with the stipulation that all those going will have to sign the release form.
• Superintendent Terrence Beam reported that the Pocahontas County Archery teams did well at a competition held in Elkview last week. The middle school team took first place and the elementary school team took second.
• Coordinator of teaching and learning Christina Smith provided information and dates for several upcoming events. The county social studies fair is March 8 at the NRAO. Regional math field day is March 23, also at the NRAO, and an Early Childhood Fair is April 9.
• Student representative Emily Boothe reported that the Lady Warriors will play in Sectionals at home Wednesday evening. If they win, they will move on to play in the next round Saturday at Petersburg.
Boothe added that the Rotary Interact Club is making Easter cards for residents at Pocahontas Center.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Employment of Nicole Rose-Taylor as after-school tutor at Marlinton Elementary School, retroactive to February 8 through June 1, at $20 per hour, two hours per day, two days per week. Position funded through McKinney-Vento grant.
• Employment of Laurel Dilley, Aaron Pugh and Abram Rittenhouse as head boys and girls track coaches at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2015-2016 season, at a supplement of $1,500 to be divided equally among three individuals.
• Employment of Randall Irvine as head baseball coach at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2015-2016 season, at a supplement of $750. Employment contingent upon completion of WVSSAC course.
• Employment of Lori Doolittle as truancy diversion specialist for Pocahontas County Schools, effective February 24 through May 25, at $20 per hour, three hours per day, five days per week, not to exceed 65 days, not to exceed $7,800. Position funded through Truancy Diversion Grant.
The next board meeting is Monday, March 14, at Hillsboro Elementary School, with a public hearing on the 2016-2017 school calendar at 6 p.m. and the regular meeting at 7 p.m.