At the Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting July 20, Marlinton Elementary School LSIC president JL Clifton expressed his concerns with the board’s plan to use the American Rescue Plan funding to install air conditioning in Green Bank Elementary-Middle School and Marlinton Middle School. Clifton said that while the LSIC does not disagree with other schools getting upgrades and repairs, the members feel Marlinton Elementary School is getting left out and is in need of repairs and air conditioning, as well.
“We’re frustrated, and this is mainly because we’re not slated for air conditioning at Marlinton Elementary School as we understand it,” he said. “We’d like to know that there’s a plan in place, something that we can track and follow and know that it’s not about air quality and it’s not about this or that.
“We don’t want to cause a fuss and cause a school to not get something that you have planned to give them,” he continued. “We just want to be in line and make sure that there is a plan.”
The ARP funding is given with stipulations and superintendent Terrence Beam explained that a portion of the funding must go toward learning loss, after-school and summer school, including creating positions to assist with those areas of education. The rest of the funding may be used to improve facilities with a focus on air quality.
Air quality tests were done at all five schools and the report stated that GBEMS and MMS had the worst air quality of the five.
The ARP funding was created by Congress as a way to help schools recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and that is why air quality is part of the plan.
Board president Sue Hollandsworth explained that is another reason why GBEMS and MMS were at the top of the list.
“Part of the decision for those two schools was because of the CDC, because middle school students are more susceptible to COVID because of their age,” she said. “That was part of the decision making.”
Beam gave a report on the plan for the ARP funding and other upgrade plans using other funding sources. He explained that he did an interview with both The Pocahontas Times and Allegheny Mountain Radio several weeks ago to lay out the plans for all five schools.
While the ARP funding will go toward air conditioning for GBEMS and MMS, there is other funding that will be used for the other schools. The board signed an agreement with Wendel Energy Systems to replace all school lighting with LED lights, which will bank savings for the board.
Instead of waiting several years for the savings to kick in to make repairs to the facilities, the board chose to take out a loan to replace the sprinkler system at MES this year. The savings from the lighting will be used to repay the loan.
Next, Beam said that he plans to work on a MIP [Major Improvement Project] grant application to the West Virginia School Building Authority for a new roof on MES. An MIP grant of up to $1 million can only be used for one school.
Beam added that he also plans to apply for a Needs Project through the SBA to air condition the remaining schools. He said that in using the ARP funding to air condition two schools, the SBA will see that the board uses funding properly and will, hopefully, fund the Needs Project.
“So with the ARP money, the MIP, the Needs Project and the energy savings, we’ve got four different pots of money we’re trying to use to fix all five schools,” he said. “That’s kind of where we are with this plan.”
When the ARP plan was shared on the board of education website, it was open to public comment and Beam said it received 14 comments, 12 of which expressed concern as to why MES was not slated to get air conditioning.
“It bothered me a little bit,” he said. “No, that’s not true. It bothered me a lot that some of the comments that were made were that Marlinton Elementary had been forgotten and there’s nothing in there for Marlinton Elementary. The only thing that wasn’t in there for Marlinton Elementary School was the air conditioning. Everything else – all the learning loss, all those positions, all that stuff – it was getting the same as everybody else.
“When I did the article with [The Pocahontas Times], I told her that I was going to make this as clear as I could that there were no plans to try to short change any school or close any school,” he continued. “It’s just that we only have so much money to do all these projects without using any local money, and it’s almost impossible to do. It’s just not easy to do.”
• Director of Special Education, student services, transportation, technology and testing Ruth Bland gave a report on several of her departments.
In transportation, Bland reported that bus driver Donald McNeel is one of 10 finalists for the Service Personnel of the Year award for West Virginia. She added that there are three candidates to become substitute bus drivers and the two new buses have been ordered and will be added to the fleet this fall.
In technology, Bland said she is applying for Emergency Connectivity Funds from E-Rate which will help purchase devices for students. The funding will also help provide Internet service for families that have no Internet at home.
“It can give them a cable modem, and it can give them a year’s subscription to whatever service,” Bland said. “I’m working with Shentel and Frontier – I haven’t gotten hold of Citynet yet, to get pricing, but it must be for parents that did not have any internet last year.”
Bland also gave a report on the multicultural committee and its work in creating a curriculum for multicultural studies at Pocahontas County High School. She explained that there are two areas that the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee is concerned about that they want to include in the curriculum.
The drug culture and human trafficking are big concerns as well as diversity.
Bland said the committee has created a survey which will be sent to parents concerning the curriculum and the committee will review the results when working on materials to add to what will be taught.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• The following 2021-2022 sports gender classifications, per West Virginia Department of Education: Boys sports – baseball, basketball, soccer and track and field. Girls sports – basketball, soccer, softball and track and field. Co-ed sports – band, cheerleading and football.
• To sell through public auction the 96.4 acres, more or less, Tract A, Green Bank [Slaven] Property, with a minimum bid of $250,000 which includes fees.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Resignation of Angela D. Vandevender as teacher of multi-subjects at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, effective August 1.
• Resignation of Sarah C. Brown as teacher of multi-subjects at Marlinton Elementary School, effective August 1.
• Employment of Michelle R. Murphy as teacher of multi-subjects at Marlinton Elementary School, at state basic salary based on degree and experience, effective for the 2021-2022 school year. Term of employment is 200 days.
• Employment of Diane L. Arbogast as cafeteria manager at Hillsboro Elementary School at state basic pay, effective for the 2021-2022 school year. Term of employment is 200 days.
• Requested transfer of Dottie Chestnut as itinerant special education classroom aide/bus aide at Pocahontas County High School to itinerant special education classroom aide/bus aide at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School at state basic pay, effective for the 2021-2022 school year. Term of employment is 200 days.
The next board meeting will be Tuesday, August 10, at 6 p.m. at the board of education conference room.