At the September 6 Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, director of transportation Ruth Bland gave a report to the board concerning the swift actions of Pocahontas County High School students and staff who gave assistance at the scene of a car accident.
The accident occurred in August and involved a PCHS football player and a man and his two children. After the collision, the two vehicles caught fire and because it occurred after football, soccer and cheerleading practice, the coaches and the activity bus were caught in the traffic.
“We had a number of coaches who were in their private vehicles that responded to the scene,” Bland said. “We also had the southern activity bus stopped in front of that accident and on that bus were students that were watching their classmate in a horrible situation. Under the direction of Mr. Shannon Arbogast – who is our soccer coach – and with the protection of Chuck McQuain – our bus driver – they were able to organize those students to go into Knapps Creek with their lunch buckets and form a bucket brigade to be able to douse the fire until the fire department got there.”
More than 29 football, soccer and cheerleading students formed the bucket brigade and helped until emergency services arrived. Coaches also assisted with shielding those in the vehicles from the flames as they were doused by water.
“We had a number of students that were in Knapps Creek joining that bucket brigade,” Bland said. “They came off that bus; Mr. McQuain would not have been able to keep those students on that bus because they were bent on helping their classmate.
“In a world where we see so many bad things, we have a bunch of really, really good students,” she continued. “Really good kids and we have some really great employees that will lay down their life for someone else to save them.”
There were several students who remained on the bus because the scene frightened them, and Bland said several upperclassmen consoled the younger students.
Bland said she reported the incident to the West Virginia Department of Education’s department of transportation director David Baber, who commended the students for their swift action.
“What I was very concerned about was the children coming off the bus and the safety of the children and he said, ‘it may not have been the correct decision, but it was the right decision for not only the child that was in the car, but for all the children that were on that bus,’” she said.
Bland added her praise for the students and staff who bravely rose to the occasion to help in a dire situation.
“I’m so very proud of them,” she said. “I’m so very proud of my bus driver who stayed with that bus, stayed on the radio and was able to do a back and forth with the dispatch as to what was going on. We are fortunate that no lives were lost. Our students are brave, courageous and heroic.”
Those who assisted on the scene were: coaches Matt Buzzard, Brad Carpenter, Darlene Arbogast, Doug Lantz and Shannon Arbogast; and students Ryan Friel, Nathan Boylen, Caleb Ritter, Devon Burgess, Braeden Hayhurst, Landon Hebb, Jacob Bennett, Justin Dean, Dakota Sheets, DJ Wilfong, Clayton Burns, Gavin Walls, Ramona Hardy, Berkley Buzzard, Winsor Alderman, Drew Cummings, Brady Carpenter, Haydon Moore, Logan Wimer, Nathaniel Wimer, Ryan Roy, James Scott, Makenzie Thomas, Evan Hamrick, Elizabeth Taylor, Taiylor Hoke, Riley Pollack, Andrea Alderman, Ethan Stull, Ben Withers and Noah Solak.
• Student representative Haley Spencer reported that the students at PCHS are concerned about the climate control in several classrooms. She explained that when the weather is nice outside, it can be up to 80 degrees in one classroom. She added that the school is having an issue with smoking in the bathrooms and because of that issue, the bathrooms are closed when teachers cannot monitor them, which is causing a disruption to the students’ day.
Spencer also recognized Sammy Williams, who was recently named a Rural and Small Town Score by the College Board for his outstanding score on the SAT.
• School nurse Jenny Friel gave an update on the CDC and health department’s COVID-19 guidelines. She said that if an individual has direct exposure to someone with COVID-19, but they do not test positive, they are asked to wear a mask for 10 days while they are in close contact with other people.
If an individual tests positive, then they have to isolate for five days and on the sixth day, if they have no symptoms, they may return to school and are asked to wear a mask for five additional days.
• Director of student services and testing Ruth Bland gave a presentation on school enrollment and test scores for the past year.
Bland reported that this year, there are 900 students enrolled, which is down from last year’s 941. She attributed that loss to people who have seasonal jobs in the county and to the number of students who have joined virtual school and are homeschooled.
As for test scores, Bland said the students are above the state average in math of 441, with a score of 476, adding that the county is ranked sixth in the state for math scores for 11th grade students.
The students are not doing as well in English and writing with a score of 163, which is less than the state average of 173.
Bland said the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for the students and while the older students are doing well, the younger students are not retaining information as well as they should. She said the focus on helping younger students with their English/ language arts and writing skills to hopefully see their retention rise, as well as their test scores.
• County commissioner John Rebinski addressed the board with a request for the board of education budget to have a line item for after school activities. Rebinski said the county commission has received several requests, which it does not mind funding, but said the board of education should be funding them because they are school related.
Rebinski explained that the county commission recently provided funding for the sound system at the PCHS football field. He said that when individuals or organizations come to the county commission for funding for after school activities, they say the board sent them to the county commission or that the board denied the request.
Board president Sue Hollandsworth said that during her four years as a board member, she does not remember a time when the board sent anyone to the county commission to request funding. It was also noted that the board was not approached for funding for the sound system for the football field.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• Out-of-state travel request of up to 40 Pocahontas County High School seniors and Anita Workman, Aaron Pugh, Wanda Hrabina and Sarah Cover, staff at PCHS, to travel by school bus to Charlottesville, Virginia, for a day trip, September 15, to engage in a tour and activities at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home. Trip funded by PCHS trip funds and participants.
• Superintendent’s goals for the 2022-2023 school year.
Due to space constraints, Personnel Management items will be published in the September 22 edition of The Pocahontas Times.