The Pocahontas County Board of Education met with Pocahontas County High School’s (PCHS) Local School Improvement Council October 13 prior to its regular meeting.
PCHS principal Joe Riley described the problems he faces which have so far prevented him from being able to bring high school students back into the classrooms for four days a week. He said that many of the classrooms and labs in the school are not large enough to allow all students to maintain the six-foot social distancing required by the county school re-entry plan. There is also an issue with a particularly bad bottleneck in the cafeteria, where the students cannot wear masks while eating. He said he is looking at using additional spaces and adding additional lunch periods. He asked the board to consider revising their re-entry plan requirements to allow three-foot social distancing while wearing masks, since that would allow him to open the school for four-day a week attendance.
School Superintendent Terrence Beam said that he believed reducing social distancing from six-feet was an option. Beam said he has been in contact with the Governor’s Coronavirus Czar, Doctor Clay Marsh, who said there has been no evidence that the state’s schools have been super-spreaders of COVID-19.
Later in the meeting, the board, citing numerous requests from parents and the need to provide a better learning situation, passed a motion to change their school re-entry plan to clarify that masks are an acceptable alternative to the six-foot distancing except when students are eating a meal. This motion also clarified that this change will be effective Monday, October 26. This will enable most students to be back into their classrooms for four days a week as of that day, yet allow schools a couple of weeks to solve the meal situations. The board included in its action leaving the option of allowing parents to keep their kids in the two-day-a-week blended program or the virtual option.
In other business, the board
• approved financial reports
• met with PCHS staff members who discussed re-entry ideas with the board.
• approved a memorandum of understanding with Youth Health Services for that organization to continue to provide emotional and mental health services to the students at the county schools.
• approved the addition of two combined courses at PCHS. Those are Physical Education and Health and Agriculture, Natural Resources and Horticulture.
• approved a mutual agreement with the teachers to compensate them for providing additional coverage during their scheduled planning periods.
The next board meeting is Tuesday, October 27, at 3 p.m. at Marlinton Elementary School, beginning with a Local School Improvement Council meeting.