The Pocahontas County Board of Education received good news at ifs August 16 meeting concerning use of the ESSER – Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief – funding to install air conditioning in three schools.
The project to air condition the schools has been in the works for several years and began when the board entered an agreement with Wendel Energy Services to convert the school system’s lighting to LED in an energy saving project.
The funds saved with the new lighting – in addition to the ESSER funding – was to be used for AC.
Wendel representative Andy Cocina explained to the board that the original plan to install AC in two schools has been changed to include a third school due to a change with the ESSER funding.
“The grant itself was about $2.3 million dollars,” he said. “That was driven by the U.S. Department of Energy and handled by the West Virginia Department of Education. There were a lot of requirements with that – as there are with any type of grant – there are rules that they want adhered to. Number one, prevailing wage. The second, which was the Achilles heel of this project was what is called a dedicated outdoor air system.”
The dedicated outdoor air system would have required duct work to run through the trusses of the schools’ roofs, which would have added a lot of time, and cost, to the project.
When the project to provide air conditioning to two schools was first put out to bid, the board received one bid which was three times the cost they anticipated. Cocina said he reached out to the state DOE and learned that several counties were having issues with following the strict guidelines of the ESSER funding.
Cocina went on to say that the board was granted permission to transfer the funding into the general fund, which takes away the strict restrictions and allows the board more leeway in using the funds for air conditioning in the schools.
“In the transfer of the money, now it allows you the same pool of funding, but now you’re not restricted as to how you can spend it,” Cocina said. “So we looked at this and said, ‘what if we subtract the dedicated outdoor air and all the other federal requirements, what does it look like then?’”
Concina said he took that question to a company and asked for an estimate to air condition Green Bank Elementary-Middle School and Marlinton Middle School, compared to the cost of air conditioning for those two schools as well as Marlinton Elementary School.
“Based on the numbers they gave us – and I’m very hesitant here – it’s not done until the bids go out and the county has approved bids… but being cautiously optimistic and comfortable with what I’m saying, we should be able to do air conditioning in three schools,” Cocina said. “That’s really what the goal is. I’m 99 percent confident of that, but I won’t promise it until I have ink on the contract.”
The board thanked Cocina for the update and his work in helping the board to responsibly use its funding.
New guidelines for COVID-19 in place for new school year
School nurse Jenny Friel shared the latest recommendations from the West Virginia Department of Edu- cation and CDC concerning COVID-19.
“Isolation is for those who test positive,” she said. “Quarantine is for those who are exposed. What the state department and CDC is recommending is that quarantining is no longer going to exist unless they choose not to wear a mask.”
The guidelines are as follows:
1. A person that is fully vaccinated – including boosters – and is exposed to COVID-19 does not have to quarantine or wear a mask. It is business as usual. Monitor for any development of symptoms.
2. If a person is not fully boosted and is exposed to COVID-19, they need to wear a mask for 10 days and can get tested on day five, if desired.
3. A person that is not fully boosted, is exposed to COVID-19 and decides not to wear a mask, needs to quarantine for 10 days total from date of exposure.
4. If a person tests positive for COVID-19, they need to isolate for five day, and upon return to work/school, wear a mask for an additional five days, while they continue to monitor their symptoms.
If any employee chooses not to wear a mask after exposure or isolation, there is no COVID-19 relief funding available, so they will need to use their own time. Students will have an excused absence if they choose to not wear a mask and remain at home for the allotted amount of time. A form must be completed by Friel and sent to the school office indicating a student’s absence along with dates to ensure they are excused.
• Dr. Pamela Schield of Community Care of West Virginia introduced herself to the board and said she is the new liaison between the schools and Community Care. Schield said Community Care has been offering services in four of the five schools for years and plans to continue to provide medical and behavioral health services to the students.
• Eryn Neyer, with the WVU Extension Service Family Nutrition Program, gave a presentation to the board about the program which will provide nutrition, food and physical activity programs to limited resource families and youth.
Neyer explained that she has several projects she will be implementing in the schools, including nutrition-based curriculum, healthy recipes and after school cooking classes. The program will also collaborate with the Pocahontas County Farmers Market to provide locally grown produce for the students and their families.
• Truancy diversion specialist Julie Shiflet gave a report to the board about school absences and the process she and director of attendance Ron Hall take to monitor truancy.
Shiflet said that after the first three unexcused absences, the school will send a letter home explaining what will happen if the student continues to have unexcused absences. When a student has reached 10 unexcused absences, a complaint is filed with magistrate court.
Excused absences, with a note from the doctor or proof it was a COVID-19 related absence, does not count against the student.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• Amendment of Project Development Agreement with Wendel Energy Services, LLC. and Pocahontas County Board of Education to include ECM3 HVAC Renovations for Marlinton Elementary Schools.
• Entry into an independent contract with Jeff Wayne as water operator at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School at $50 per hour, one hour per week, or as needed, retroactive to July 1, 2022 until June 30, 2023.
• Memorandum of Understanding between Pocahontas County Schools and West Virginia’s Family Nutrition Program to provide nutrition and physical activity programs for low-income families and/or other children for the 2022-2023 school year.
• WV Pre-K Agreement between Pocahontas County Board of Education and School Days Child Care, LLC, students attending August 22, 2022 through May 25, 2023, wherein the parties will collaborate to provide preschool services for up to 20 children, at a contract amount of nine equal installments of $8,333.33, not to exceed $75,000. Meals will be reimbursed to SDCC, LLC at a rate of $2.61 for each breakfast served and $4.56 for each lunch served.
• Memorandum of Understanding between Pocahontas County Board of Education and North Central West Virginia Community Action Association, Inc. – Head Start Program, retroactive to July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023.
• The revised Neola policy po7540.03 – Pocahontas County Schools’ Acceptable Use Forms.
• The following overnight travel requests for Nature’s Mountain Classroom, Pocahontas Explorers: October 18-21 – sixth grade, Science Adventure Camp, Jackson’s Mill; October 24-27 – seventh grade, Camping at Silver Creek; and May 22-24, 2023 – eighth grade, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Resignation of Michelle D. Wilfong as half-time graduation coach at Pocahontas County High School, retroactive to August 8.
• Resignation of Derek R. Trull as itinerant teacher of art at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School and Marlinton Middle School, effective August 16.
• Employment of Michelle D. Wilfong as substitute teacher for Pocahontas County Schools, at state basic pay, based on degree and experience, for the 2022-2023 school year, as needed.
• Employment of the following as mentors effective for the 2022-2023 school year, at $25 per hour, not to exceed 50 hours or $1,250: Mary Sun Burns mentoring Eleanor Bell; Stephanie Burns mentoring Erin Murphy; Diane Delfino mentoring Krystal Lewis; Cammy Kesterson mentoring Sally Logan; Richard McLaughlin mentoring Christopher Baber; Robert Sheets mentoring William F. Meehan; and Leah Shinaberry mentoring Kaylea Kelley.
• Employment of the following as restricted substitute teachers (2A) for Pocahontas County Schools, at state basic pay, based on degree and experience, for the remainder of the 2022-2023 school year, as needed: Shannon G. Arbogast, Kathy M. Irvine, Jamie D. Hill and Jessica N. Taylor.
• Permission to post K-2 instructional coaches – two positions – to provide professional development services to instructional staff through the K-2 Classroom Instructional Support Project Grant, providing 77 days of service at $325 per day, not to exceed $25,000 – including payroll deductions – per coach, for the 2022-2023 school year.
The next board meeting will be Tuesday, September 6, at 6 p.m., at the board of education conference room.