BOE discusses multiple concerns

Tim Walker
AMR Reporter

At its November 17 meeting, the Pocahontas County Board of Education approved a resolution to move forward with the Wendle Corporation’s guaranteed energy savings project. Andy Cocina of Wendle explained earlier in the meeting just what this project is, how it works and how the project will also provide local match funds to the BOE to assist in obtaining School Building Authority (SBA) approval for needs projects without the usual necessity of first passing a school levy.

According to Cocina, the BOE would borrow funds to finance energy savings improvements in the schools. These would include replacing all the interior and exterior lighting at all five schools with energy efficient LED lights; replace HVAC controls at the schools; and improve each school’s insulation envelopes. Engineers from Wendle have already conducted an energy audit of the school facilities and estimate that, once those improvements are completed, the board will conservatively save enough in utility bills to repay the financing in 15 years. He said these energy saving projects will pay for themselves by reducing utility bills and additionally enable the BOE to be credited with $1.8 million in local match funds, which the SBA says can be used in their application for SBA Needs Grants. The BOE will not need to pass a school levy to raise a local match to get approved for a SBA Needs Grant if it uses the Wendle program as its local match.

Ron Hall added that by doing this, the BOE will be able to apply to the SBA for a Major Improvement Project this spring to replace the roof and fire sprinkler system at Marlinton Elementary School, and also apply for a large Needs Grant later in the year to replace the HVAC system, electrical system and doors at Pocahontas County High School. He said, in addition, once the initial financing of the energy improvements is paid off, all future energy savings will go into the BOE’s budget. Hall will send a proposed contract to the BOE’s law firm for review and approval.

Christine Campbell, of the Marlinton Middle School’s Local School Improvement Council, talked to the board. She said that the majority of students at the school are now attending four days a week, with only about 15 students remaining in the virtual school, down from 40 at the beginning of the school year. She expressed concerns about the safety of the ventilation system in the school because of the virus, however Ron Hall assured her the filters are the best quality available, are CDC approved, and are changed every three months in all the schools. Campbell also said that there is a safety issue because the intercom system is not working in the schools. Ruth Bland said a new intercom system has been approved by the COPS Grant, but the Federal Government is slow to deliver the funds for that. She also said the new phone system can be used as an intercom system in the meantime.

During a meeting with the school staff, the board heard the following concerns:

• A lack of preparedness for an emergency evacuation at the school

• Lack of a law enforcement presence at the school

• Wondering why WiFi is turned off in the school. To which Ruth Bland explained the WiFi is active at the school, but the BOE has decided to not allow teacher’s personal devices to link with it at any of the schools.

• Want more parent involvement.

In other matters, the board:

• Was informed by Superintendent Beam that the December first meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Board Office rather than at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School since schools will be closed that day. The meeting at Green Bank will be rescheduled.

• Amended the Re-Entry Plan to simplify the remote plan for food service. Instead of delivering food on buses, there will be food pick-up at three schools.

• Approved restrictions on the upcoming basketball season, which will not start until at least January 11.

Restrictions on Basketball

Should school bus transportation be available during away games, it will be utilized at 20% capacity. The availability to purchase two tickets per athlete per game for both home and visiting teams is permissible. The media will be restricted to two individuals per team per game. Temperature checks will be monitored with athletes and all spectators. Social distancing and mask/shield regulations will be followed as provided in the re-entry guidelines. Operating concession stands is at the discretion of the school, but must be in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Pocahontas County Health Department.

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