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School maintenance in dire straits

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer
At the Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting Monday night, maintenance director Ron Hall asked the board how he should proceed with maintenance of the schools since the proposed school levy failed in the General Election.

Hall said he is concerned with many issues at the schools and does not know how to proceed because he is unsure if the board plans to keep all five schools open.

“Basically what I’m here for this evening is, I need direction,” he said. “I can’t go forward because I don’t know where to go. I don’t know what our direction is. We don’t have a plan. We never had a plan after the levy. What are we going to do? Is it the intent of the board to keep all five schools open? Is it the intent of the board to do two Pre-k-12s? Is it the intent of the board to do a Pre-K-8 and a high school? I need some sort of direction because what you tell me determines where I move.”

There are several issues that need to be addressed immediately. Hall said the state fire marshal’s office said the sprinkler system and fire alarm system at Marlinton Elementary School and the fire alarm system at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School need to be replaced.

For a time, the fire marshal’s office was lenient about the systems at the two schools, but recently informed Hall that action must be taken.

“When we started the levy last year, I stated our sprinkler systems were in dire need at Marlinton Elementary and Green Bank,” Hall said. “Our alarm systems are also in dire need. At that time the state marshal recommended we replace that stuff. It is no longer a recommendation. The state fire marshal now says you shall replace the sprinkler system and alarm system at Marlinton Elementary and you shall replace the alarm system at Green Bank.” 

Hall said he estimated the cost to replace the systems to be nearly $200,000.

“I have addressed this,” he said. “I sent the information back to the fire marshal of how we’re going to address the issue. I said I would bring it to the board and we’ll have to deal with it somehow.”

Hall also discussed the Major Improvement Project proposal he wants to present to the West Virginia School Building Authority. The project is a grant request to replace the sewer system at Pocahontas County High School and to make repairs of the vocational building.

An MIP grant can only be used for one school and Hall said he focused on the vocational building because no matter what the board decided to do, the vocational building will continue to be used for education.

“The vocational building will always have to be used for our vocational no matter what we do, so what I would like to do is apply to the SBA a MIP project for a new sewer system at the high school and also apply for new doors, the shop windows and the big garage door in the vocational shop,” Hall said. 

The board agreed with Hall that the MIP project was a good proposal and approved to have it submitted to the SBA.

While that may solve some issues, if the grant is approved, Hall said he still needs guidance for the future of the schools.

“I just need help, folks,” he said. “I’m willing to move in any direction and do whatever you tell me to do, but I can’t right now. I’m just throwing things out there because I really thought the levy would pass. We really needed it to and it didn’t, so I’m in the dark and I’m thinking, ‘okay, what do I do?’ Do you all agree with that?”

The board said it understood Hall’s concerns. Board president Emery Grimes said he had some ideas for the schools, but said he wanted to discuss the issue with the other board members first before sharing it publicly.

The board thanked Hall for the information he provided.

In updates:

• Superintendent Terrence Beam gave a report on several items, include special recognitions of students and staff. 

Beam said he set a goal to visit each classroom in the county this year. He has visited Hillsboro Elementary, Marlinton Elementary and Marlinton Middle. He has two more visits to Green Bank Elementary-Middle and then most of Pocahontas County High School.

“I’ve seen some really good things,” he said. “It’s really interesting to sit and watch the kids and watch the teachers. We need to feel very blessed for both. We have some really good kids and we have some really good teachers that do a great job keeping the kids on task and doing the right things.”

In student recognitions, Beam announced the following:

– Walker Shinaberry and Austin Sharp are both state certified in welding and structural steel.

– PCHS ProStart team – Brittney Sharp, Brandal Carr and Amber Pritt – were grand champions at the Cast Iron Cook-off in Morgantown.

– Battle of the Books winners were: third and fourth grade division – Kaydence Waybright, Caleb McCarty, Jade Arbogast and Taylor Arnold; fifth and sixth grade division – Daisy Shuttleworth, Kyalily Barb, Haleena Hebb, Kimberly Underwood and Jordan Faris; and seventh and eighth grade division – Natalie Halterman, Cheylin Woodruff and Alan Gibson.

– NASP Academic Archer Award recipients: elementary division – Abigail McClure, Aspen Hissom, Caleb Ritter, Cheyenne Dean, Claire Burgess, Eden Smith, Haleena Hebb, Hannah Burks, Owen Barb, Rachel Felton, Ramona Hardy, Riley Pollack, Whitney Robertson, Sabina Leyzorek and Lacey Stewart.

Middle division – Breanna Sharp, Chloe Hardesty, Conner Spencer, Emmalee Dean, Gareth Ryder, Haley Spencer, Hazel Riley, Jaryd Friel, Jazzlyn Teter, Macaden Tayor, Makenna McKenney, Maria Workman, Max Ervine, Ryan Robertson, Rayna Smith, Silas Riley, Tessa Kiner and Catlin Mallow.

High division – Benjamin Davis, Cody Kiner, Taylor Tegtmeyer, Carlie Ervine, Kely Pyne and Laura Leyzorek.

• Director of technology Ruth Bland gave a presentation about the computer science programs in Pocahontas County. Bland recently attended a state board of education meeting where a video of computer science students and faculty was shown.

Bland said the state board recognized Pocahontas County for its efforts in teaching computer science, adding that it is not a requirement to offer the class until next year, so Pocahontas County is ahead of the curve.

She added that when computer science teacher Laurel Dilley went to training for the program, her colleagues helped with the cost.

“When Laurel went for her training, we didn’t pay for it,” she said. “She got a slot and we were lucky she was able to get that slot. Her colleagues helped pay for her expenses to go out of their pocket.”

The next board meeting is Monday, March 13, at 5:30 p.m. at Marlinton Elementary School. The meeting will begin with a school calendar hearing.

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