The Pocahontas County Board of Education invited representatives from Marlinton Elementary, Marlinton Middle and Hillsboro Elementary schools to Monday night’s meeting to share each school’s opinion on the possibility of moving fifth grade to the middle school.
In 2013, the board approved moving the fifth grade from MMS back to MES and HES. It was highly debated with staff and community members expressing support for and against the move.
Since the move, there have been issues with overcrowding at MES and the issue arose again to consider moving the fifth grade back to MMS.
To gain input and insight into the matter, the board asked staff at the schools to share their opinions about keeping the schools the way they are or making the change again.
Several of the teachers who spoke agree that fifth grade is more of an elementary level class, but understand the issues with overcrowding at MES.
Nicole Dilley teaches fifth grade and said she feels the students are more suited to stay at the elementary school.
“I’m not really sure as far as to say whether I think they are mature enough,” she said. “I feel like we’re all right, and it’s your job to make sure who’s the most right. I just personally feel like fifth grade is an elementary setting. I feel like that’s where they need to be.”
Hillsboro teacher Gina Hardesty agreed that the students are too young to be at the middle school and added that if the board is going to consider consolidation in the future, then the fifth grade should not be moved until the decision is made.
“I feel like fifth graders are still kids,” she said. “They are ten years old, and I don’t feel they are ready to go up there, and I think that’s why they got moved back a couple of years ago. At Hillsboro, we realize that there’s going to be some big changes coming in the next couple years. Whether that’s K-12 schools or however that’s going to be, I feel like you don’ t need to make a big move now and then make a big move two years from now. You might as well do it all at one time.”
Kaitlyn Wratchford was selected by the staff of MES to be spokesperson for the school because, as she explained, she is neutral on the subject of the move. She shared a list of pros and cons created by the staff, as well as a list of questions the school has about the future if the fifth grade is moved.
“MES just really had more questions,” she said. “We all kind of sat together and created this. We just wanted to see if you all would be able to answer some of those questions to see where we’re moving.”
The board explained that it also has many questions about what the future would look like if the fifth grade was moved and tried to answer some of those presented in the list.
“I don’t think we see this happening in the fall,” board member Sue Hollandsworth said. “Until we figure out what the long range plan is in the CEFP [Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan] and make some decisions on facilities, we really can’t make a decision on fifth grade. This was just brought up, and we’re just testing the waters.”
On behalf of MMS, principal Dustin Lambert shared the school’s opinion and said they are ready for the fifth grade to come back whenever the decision is made.
“I will tell you that probably one hundred percent of my staff members – service personnel and professionals – want the fifth grade back,” he said. “I know we’re getting ready to go through the Comprehensive Educational Plan, and I think that’s the most important thing that we have as a body of educators to focus on for the next ten years. I’m going to admit to you that I see the writing on the wall, and I’m a good interpreter of it. Consolidation is inevitable in this district. We don’t have another option. We have no money.”
With that said, Lambert agreed that a rash decision would not be in the best interest of any of the parties involved.
“I think it’s really important that we do not make a hasty decision right now, just like Mrs. Hardesty said,” Lambert added. “I think it’s really important that we focus on this comprehensive plan and make the fifth grade part of that comprehensive plan.”
Lambert concluded by saying he is a proponent of the fifth grade being at the middle school and that it is possible to acclimate them into the middle school as soon as possible. There is room for the students and there is a schedule that will run smoothly with the addition of the fifth grade.
Music teacher Rick McLaughlin, who teaches at all three schools involved – MES, MMS and HES – said that having the fifth grade at the middle school would make the music program a lot stronger and alleviate some travel time on his part. He said when the fifth grade was at MMS, he had more time to work with the students in the band and they progressed further in the lesson plan than they do now.
The board thanked the representatives for their opinions and for providing information that might impact the decision.
“Your thoughts are important to us,” board president Joe Walker said. “They’re certainly more important to this situation than mine, because I have no idea what is the best way to do it. That’s why I seek your information.”
• Superintendent Terrence Beam reported that he has had several volunteers contact him sharing their interest to serve on the CEFP committee. He hopes more community members and school staff will follow suit. The planning meetings will begin sometime in April.
• Student representative Jarod Liptrap reported that the Pocahontas County High School National Honor Society will visit the elementary schools this week to spend time with the students and teachers. He added that several seniors are participating in free general ed classes offered through New River Community College.
The PCHS robotics team placed 13th at the Vex Robotics competition at Fairmont State University. The team was pitted against 29 other teams and fared well considering it was their first time competing.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• 30 day comment period on revised Policy JBCCA.
• Resolution for ESCO. Energy audit. There will be no expense to the Board of Education until the audit is used to obtain SBA funds for needs projects or as energy projects. Paid by local funds.
• Pocahontas County Schools community volunteers for the 2018-2019 school year.
• Thomas Moats as volunteer baseball coach at Pocahontas County High School for the 2018-2019 season.
• Lauren Goodwin as volunteer boys and girls track coach at Pocahontas County High School for the 2018-2019 season.
• Justin Kerr as volunteer softball coach at Pocahontas County High School for the 2018-2019 season.
• Derek Taylor, Chasity Taylor, Melissa Nelson and Scott Garber as volunteer basketball coaches for fourth and fifth grade at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School for the 2018-2019 season.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Requested transfer of Steven Mick, as school bus operator from current route to a new route, effective February 27, for the remainder of the 2018-2019 school year.
• Resignation of Anne Smith as after-school tutor for Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, retroactive to January 23.
The next board meeting will be Monday, March 11, beginning at 4 p.m., at the Pocahontas County Opera House.