The Pocahontas County Board of Education reviewed its School Reentry Plan at its October 27 meeting and, for the second consecutive meeting, made revisions.
At their previous meeting, the Board planned to open schools October 26 for all students, except those in virtual school, to receive face-to-face instruction in their classrooms four days a week. This revision also allowed parents the option of keeping their kids on the two-day per week schedule if they felt uncomfortable with them attending four days.
Since making those revisions, both the board and school administration received numerous requests from teachers for the board to mandate the four-day schedule by removing the parental option to leave their kids on the two-day program.
Many teachers had also informed the board and administration that it is just too much work and stress to prepare separate assignments for those few students remaining on the two-day plan while conducting in-class instruction four days for the rest of the students. They said this is especially true because some two-day students attend classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, while others attend on Thursdays and Fridays.
The principals also provided input about this at the meeting:
* PCHS Principal Joseph Riley, told the board that a number of high school students who remained in the two-day plan were students whose attendance was problematic even before the pandemic, and others are students who had elected to work part-time jobs on the three days per week they were not in attendance. He said many of these students are not doing their home assignments, and he recommended the four-day schedule be mandated.
• Green Bank Elementary-Middle School principal Julie Shiflet told the board that, while she would like to see four-day in class instruction mandated, if two-day classes remain, that students should be required to attend Mondays and Tuesdays only.
• Marlinton Middle School principal Nebraska Scotchie, said all of her students are attending four days a week.
• Becky Spencer, principal of Hillsboro Elementary School, said she only has a few students on the two-day a week plan, and all of them attend on Mondays and Tuesdays.
• Principal Phillip Anderson of Marlinton Elementary School, also recommended that four-days a week be mandated.
After considering all of this input, the board voted to mandate that all students, other than those in the virtual school, attend school for four days a week, effective November 5. That date marks the beginning of the second nine-week grading period.
On another re-entry plan issue, Superintendent Terrance Beam told the board that some teachers who remain after school for extra-curricular matters or to catch up on grading or lesson plans, have expressed concerns to him. Because the current re-entry plan does not permit teachers to keep their own children with them in the school building after hours, they are experiencing difficulties and expenses in finding childcare. Those teachers asked that the board revise the re-entry plan to address this. The board made the revision because the teachers have been sacrificing a lot during this pandemic to educate the county students.
The Marlinton Elementary School LSIC President Luci Mosesso made a presentation to the board which supported permanently maintaining Marlinton Elementary School at its existing location. She also pointed out some issues of concern. These included:
• greater outside lighting around the school.
• removing the abandoned former School Board Building which is next to Marlinton Elementary School.
• finding funds to replace the school’s fire sprinkler system, perhaps by obtaining funding through a grant.
• needed improvements to the school’s playground, particularly the basketball court.
Marlinton Elementary School’s Principal, Phillip Anderson provided an overview of the school’s enrollment and other data. He said the school currently has 224 students, 23 professional staff and eight service personnel. So far this year the school has had 97.5% attendance and only three disciplinary incidents. This is a major improvement for the school, as there were 177 disciplinary incidents at the school last year. Anderson said that, as of the date of the meeting, only seven students remain on the two-day a week attendance plan and 35 students attend virtual school. He said many parents of these virtual students are not happy with it, and kids keep trickling back to in-school attendance.
In other matters, the board approved
• a memorandum of understanding with the Burlington United Methodist Family Services to provide services and support to meet the educational needs of foster children in the county.
• the 2020-2030 Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan.
• unpaid medical leave for Samantha J. Feather, a Teacher of Multi-Subjects at Marlinton Elementary School.
• unpaid medical leave for Janet L. Cole, an Itinerate Special Education Classroom Aide/Bus Aide.
• a change in mentorship of Tessa M. Himelrick from Darlene D. Arbogast to Anne M. Smith for the remainder of the school year at $22 per hour, not to exceed 50 hours or $1,100.
The next board of education meeting will be Tuesday, November 17, at 3 p.m. at Marlinton Middle School.