By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The Principal’s from Davis Thomas Elementary Middle School, Tucker County High School, and Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School appeared before the Tucker County Board of Education to present their re-opening plans individualized to their specific schools. The Board of Education previously approved a county-wide re-opening plan and each school’s administration was asked to take the guidelines and formulate a school specific plan.
TCHS Principal David Koritko began the presentations with a powerpoint to highlight points within his multi-page plan by stating, “I was trying to be proactive because in a crisis situation, communication is the key thing, so I created a letter to the parents that needs to go out as a sense of calming and stability.” He commented on the changes that W.Va Governor Jim Justice has been making, sometimes on a daily basis, presenting additional challenges for him and the other administrators in developing their plans. Koritko researched 23 other counties and how they were re-opening their schools to ensure the safety and quality of education for the students as well as the staff.
The plan is broken into six strategic goals which include safety of students, teachers, and staff, maximize face to face instruction, provide social and emotional support to students, teachers and staff, communicate concisely and frequently with all stakeholders, deploy school resources strategically, and adapt to ever-changing conditions and requirements. Support must be maintained for all involved to ensure the safety and success of all students, which brings concerns to Koritko for the special education students in the instance that distance or virtual learning platforms are enforced.
Koritko went over the schedules based on the phase of the virus with phase one being a traditional, five days per week schedule, which is how the students will begin the year. He stated that several teachers have indicated they were having plexiglass dividers constructed to place in their class, which he instructed his staff not to do because it will not meet fire codes and the lack of science behind the virus. “Let’s stick with masks and other stable things we know about,” Koritko said.
A short music video was compiled by some of the staff of TCHS to provide an example of proper masks, the use of the water fountains, spacing within the classrooms, hand washing, lunch area spacing and seating, and one way halls. The main message of the video was to “have faith”. Letters are soon to be sent to the parents of TCHS students and access to the full plan will be available on the school website.
TVEMS Principal Kelly Thompson and newly hired Vice Principal Cynthia discussed plans for students to return to Tucker Valley. Grades six through eight will be permitted to eat lunch in the cafeteria where skipping and alternating seats will be required. Students and staff will have designated entries and exits upon arrival at school and “parents will not be permitted to enter the building with their child,” said Thompson. Middle school students arriving with walkers will report directly to their classroom and a staff member will accommodate each pod of elementary students and escort them to their room. One way hall lanes will be marked and students are not to touch the walls or lockers.
“Students should label their names on all personal school supplies,” Thompson continued to ensure students do not exchange items. When possible, meetings for individualized education plans, 504 plans, and other pertinent gathers will be held via virtual platform.
Neil “Steelie” Kisamore, Principal of DTEMS, closed the administration reports with his plan to re-open the home of The Bears. He began by thanking Facilities Director Jonathan Hicks along with the Tucker County Schools Maintenance Crews for their hard work at the schools installing the water coolers, sanitizers, modifying bathrooms, and many other tasks to prepare for re-opening. He stated that during the opening days of school, students will receive their laptops and be instructed on their use. “We will also do assessments to see our gains and losses over the summer and see where these kids are at,” said Kisamore.
Entry to the building will be determined by grade and all students will report to their homerooms. All students will be eating meals in their classrooms due to the size of their cafeteria. Kindergarten through fifth grade will be served their meals in their rooms and sixth through eight will take turns going to the cafeteria to pick up their food.
“The good thing about Davis Thomas is we have a lot of space outside,” Kisamore continued. The playground will be divided into six zones that the students will rotate through so they have the opportunity to take advantage of the many options available. Inside recess will take place when weather does not permit.
Board Vice President Daniel “Chopper” Evans asked how students are going to be addressed who are against wearing masks and refuse to do so. Kisamore responded, “I think we just need to be proactive with our kids.” He explained that numerous students within Tucker County want to be in school because they want to play sports. “I think we just sell the good points,” he continued, which would be telling the students the only way they can be in school and eligible to play sports is to wear the masks. Board member Jessica Wamsley stressed that parents need to adhere to the guidelines of when to, versus when not to send their kids to school. Additionally, concerns are present with the expense related to the current requirement of doctor’s notes and the expenses that are associated with it. Superintendent Alicia Lambert responded that it isn’t fully clear what the attendance policy will look like, but she felt confident stating, “We are not going to require them to go to the doctor every time they are sick.” Lambert stressed that students need to stay homeif they are sick in attempts to not spread any illness, not just COVID-19.
Lambert has contacted health providers to determine if a testing event could be set up for teachers and staff, which she strongly encourages staff to take advantage of. The county has 10 touchless thermometers that can be distributed to the schools and temperatures can be checked as they determine is necessary.
All plans will be uploaded to the school websites which can be found by going to www.tuckercountyschools.com and choosing the appropriate school.
The board members, with the exception of Board Member Chris Gross, proceeded with business with acknowledgement of notices of attempt to homeschool, having received requests for seven children from TVEMS and six from DTEMS. Lambert added that several parents have expressed a desire for their child to partake in the virtual public education option with numbers currently over 30 students.
Evans made a motion to approve the consent agenda items with Wamsley making a second. These items included the minutes from the July 20 meeting, payment of bills, and a request to transfer two students from Preston County to TVEMS. All members were in agreement.
Moving into personnel, Lambert recommended the employment of Amy Moore, half time physical education and health teacher at TVEMS, along with Christine Ward and Kim McCrum as mentor teachers for the 2020-21 school year. Board member Cathy Hebb made the motion as recommended with a second by Evans and all in favor.
Budget adjustments were approved as presented bringing attention to the calendar of events. Hebb asked again about recognizing the students who received awards prior to the school closures. Lambert reached out to James Snyder with the Tucker County Health Department who suggested such an event be held outside, numbers limited, and masks be required. She also stated that facilities Director Jonathan Hicks suggested waiting until at least the September 8 (Tuesday) meeting at which time the restrictions on students being permitted in the buildings was lifted. Board President Tim Turner agreed and asked for those families be contacted and asked to attend the September 8 meeting for recognition.
The next meeting for regular business is scheduled for Monday, August 17 at 4:30 p.m. This meeting will be at the Tucker County Board of Education building and masks are required.