After West Virginia Governor Jim Justice stated that students will not return to the classrooms to finish the 2019-2020 school year, the staff at Pocahontas County High School and superintendent Terrence Beam devised a plan to allow the Class of 2020 to have a graduation celebration this summer.
The tentative date for graduation is Saturday, June 20, and Beam said there are several contingency plans for the ceremony, which range from a “drive-through” graduation to a regular, face-to-face ceremony.
“We want to try to stick with a face-to-face graduation if we can at all,” Beam said. “We feel like the earlier we could do it, the better chance we have of more participation from our seniors. We’re just trying to decide the best route.”
With graduation plans near completion, Beam said next on the agenda is helping students prepare for the upcoming school year and ensuring they are ready to start the next grade level.
“There will not be summer school, per se,” he explained. “We may have credit recovery if we need that and Energy Express is going to be more of a virtual thing – from what I understand from [extension agent] Luci Mosesso.
“We’ve strongly encouraged our principals not to retain any students unless it’s a joint decision of the parents and the school,” he continued. “We’re going to do after-school for all five schools, starting in the fall, to try to help some of the kids catch up. These kids are going to have six months without face-to-face instruction from their teachers, and some of these kids are struggling to start with, so we’ve got to try to extend our day a little bit to help these kids that need to catch up.”
Beam said there will be an increase in transportation for after-school to allow students to stay.
Students also had a chance to increase their grades this year with the work they have been doing remotely at home. Beam explained that the homework was not to be used to lower their grades, but could increase their grades.
As for the meal plan, Beam said they will continue to provide meals each Monday for pick-up, although the food service will change a little.
“We’re still working with Compass – we’ll be doing that next week again,” he said. “After that, I think we’re going to revert back to our cooks preparing meals and our volunteers having to pass it out. By that time – a couple more weeks down the road – I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t go that direction because the rate of people catching this disease or testing positive with this disease continues to drop and, at some point, we have to get back to some semblance of the way we’ve always done things – normality for lack of a better term.”
The meals will continue at least until May 22, the original last day of school, unless Governor Justice states that schools need to continue to provide meals through the summer.
“I don’t know if he will do that or not,” Beam said. “We’re going to have a central feeding site like we always do, at Marlinton Elementary School, and I don’t know how expansive that will be. We usually just fed the people in the immediate area whose kids go to Energy Express. People have gotten used to having these meals delivered to their schools for the last six weeks, and so we haven’t decided how we’re going to handle summer feeding, yet. It’ll be available in some form, just not sure exactly what that is.”
Another ceremony that will be rescheduled is the annual Super Scholars event, which recognizes students for academic achievements, as well as the Teacher of the Year and Service Personnel of the Year nominees and winners.
“We’re going to wait until late in August or early September,” Beam said. “Our seniors will miss out, but the rest of the kids will all still be here, so we’re going to recognize them at a normal Super Scholars activity.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic threw everyone off their game, the board office continues to operate as normally as possible, for the sake of the students.
“We’re trying to fill positions and get our budgets done for next year,” Beam said. “We did recently post for another LPN. That will give us three LPNs. We’re really looking for an athletic trainer. We’re getting ready to post that position. We can’t start practices until we have an athletic trainer. By law, you can’t do it. So, we’re going to try to encourage people to reach out to us if they have any interest in doing that.”