The Pocahontas County Board of Education received a report at its October 17 meeting on summer programs and an update on the literacy grants that have focused on improving literacy on the elementary level.
Summer school coordinator Cammy Kesterson shared a slideshow of photos from the four weeks of elementary school summer school which was held at Marlinton Elementary. She said there was an average of 28 students who attended each week.
“It was four different camps,” she said. “It was easier for teachers to commit to teach one week at a time instead of the whole summer. Our camps were Camp Wild and Wonderful West Virginia, Camp Pioneer Days, Camp WET and Camp Explore Your Environment.”
Each week had lessons and books that fit the theme. Lessons focused on reading, social studies, science, art and social/emotional learning. Each week had four books that were the center of the lessons and the students all got to take copies of the books home.
“I think the best part was that students left smiling each day,” Kesterson said. “They were excited to come back the next day. They made a lot of new friends, and they learned so much without even realizing they were learning.”
Kesterson said that, while the program was very successful, she would also like to have a summer school option at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School for students in the northern part of the county.
Director of curriculum, instruction and federal programs Lynne Bostic, joined by Stephanie Burns and Becky Spencer, gave a report on the literacy program and several grants they have received to help fund professional development for elementary school teachers.
“The grants that we’re receiving are for kindergarten through second grade – mainly literacy – that’s the push,” Bostic said. “We have received, so far, $175,000 in these grant opportunities. The first grant that we worked on is the Building Literacy Leaders. It’s an extensive professional development.”
The initial grant was for kindergarten through second grade teachers, but Bostic said they received an extension grant to include PreK and third grade.
The grants were provided through the Benedum Foundation and West Virginia Public Education Collaborative.
Bostic, Burns and Spencer continued to seek funding through the Benedum Foundation and received a follow-up grant for the Creating Thoughtful Writers through Science program. It is also a kindergarten through second grade program.
“The first grant was working specifically on those literacy skills of reading,” Spencer explained. When they gave us the opportunity to go for another $50,000, we wanted to fold in the writing part of it, but specifically writing with science in mind. In the back of my mind is always that giant statistic of how many jobs are science-related. We need to start science extremely early because that is predominately the jobs that these kids will have and they need to be able to write in any field – any job – and pulling science into the writing in that early literacy was just a natural fit.”
In the program, students will learn to explain their thought process behind their science projects and use complete sentences to explain what is happening in the science they are learning.
Then, there was a third grant, Bostic said. Another $50,000 grant from the West Virginia Department of Education for a kindergarten through second grade classroom instruction support program. Bostic explained that the grant funding is for the employment of two instructional coaches – Mary Sue Burns for science; and Shannon Rittenhouse for social studies.
The board thanked the women for their reports and work in creating new programs that help both students and staff.
In other updates:
• School nurse Jenny Friel reported that she had a proposal to get Narcan kits for the schools in case there is an overdose on site. While at first she was against having the kits, Friel said she has since changed her mind and thinks it would be beneficial for the schools to be prepared.
“As we know, it’s a major problem, the drug use; and we’re seeing it even in our small area,” she said. “In 2021, the CDC determined that fatal overdoses claimed more than 1,417 West Virginia lives with 1,201 of those attributed to opioids.”
Friel said her major concern is if a student or staff member is exposed to Fentanyl, which is fatal with just a very small dose. If ingested or absorbed through the skin, two milligrams of Fentanyl is considered lethal.
Friel asked to be placed on the board agenda for the November 29 meeting for the matter to be discussed and acted upon by the board.
• Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton approached the board with a proposal, asking the board to transfer the bus lot on Ninth Street by the Greenbrier River Trail to the town of Marlinton. Felton said the town would like to use the lot as a parking area for visitors using the trail.
After the discussion, the board approved drafting a Memorandum of Understand which will transfer the land to the town of Marlinton, with the stipulation that students who currently use the lot may continue to do so.
• Student representative Haley Spencer reported that Pocahontas County High School has elected class officers, as well as students to serve on the school’s Local School Improvement Council. She said the student council plans to have weekly meetings open to all students who may have a request or complaint or concern to report.
Spencer added that the school recently received an upgrade to the landscaping in front of the main building. The Community in Schools, Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition, ag students and forestry students all worked together to create a welcoming facade to the school.