Tucker County Homeschool Students Jump Dramatically Due to COVID-19

The Tucker County Board of Education discussed the large increase of notifications to homeschool an additional 13 students due to the uncertainties of the Coronavirus.

By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate

 Over the course of the last few meetings of the Tucker County Board of Education, numerous notices of intent to homeschool have come through the office as parents are choosing this option over returning to traditional public school or the virtual public school platform.  At the August 17 meeting, it was acknowledged that nine students from Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School, and another four from Davis Thomas Elementary Middle School will not be enrolled in the Tucker County public school system for the 2020-21 school year.

Board President Tim Turner asked, “With all of these students going on homeschooling, is the state going to take that into allowance next year for our funding or will we be cut that much in funding?”  Superintendent Alicia Lambert responded that is something that has not been discussed at this time.  Vice President Daniel “Chopper” Evans added that with so much unknown, if the status of the virus changes, it could result in most of these students returning to public school which will quickly escalate the attendance.  Homeschool students are permitted to re-enter the public school system at any time during the year at their discretion.  “The only ones that we will not re-enter are probably transfer students who have then decided to homeschool because we’re not allowing any transfer requests to come through, for out of town transfers, past that June 30 deadline because we don’t want to overcrowd our classrooms,” Lambert explained.

At this time, approximately 35 students, mostly middle and high school students, have applied for the virtual school option, with the applications reopening once more for those who may have missed the deadline.  Lambert explained, “Once they sign up for that, they are locked in for the semester.”  After speaking with several families, it became evident that most desire remote learning with Tucker County teachers, though unless the Governor mandates this, it is not something that can be offered.  Because of this, school administrators have been asked to not commit the students until after Governor Jim Justice makes his final school announcement set for September 1.

The consent agenda items, consisting of the minutes from August 3, payment of bills, and the request to transfer two students from Preston County into DTEMS were approved as presented with a motion by board member Cathy Hebb and a second by Evans.  Board members Chris Gross and Jessica Wamsley were absent from this meeting.

Lambert made the following recommendations as it pertains to personnel:  the resignation of Alisha McCune as TVEMS girls basketball coach effective August 4, and the employment of Lori Mullenax as TVEMS special education teacher effective August 19 pending certification.  Both recommendations were approved upon unanimously.

Lambert continued with a list of substitute rehires for the upcoming school year, including Deborah Chapman, Ruth Cooper, Alison DeLeurere, Kathy DiBacco, Jennifer Durrett, Cynthia Goughnour, Thomas Gutshall, Tambra Hebb, David Helmick, Holly Hinkle, Steven Hull,   Donald Knotts, David Kyle, Karen Linton, Charles Lloyd, Dustin Luzier, Ernest Myers, Grace Nelson, Paul Pacella, Stephen Strothers, April Suesli, Bonnia Swyter, Patricia Thompson, Sarah Walters, Beverly Wiles, Bruce Wilson, and Alisha Winans.  The list of substitute rehires was approved with the exception of Phyllis Turner, who will appear on the next agenda due to lack of a quorum if Turner removed himself from voting.

It was also recommended to remove Michele Felton, Cynthia Joseph, and Stephanie Williams from the substitute list.  A motion was made by Hebb and a second by Evans.

Moving into service employment, Lambert recommended the employment of John DeLuca, substitute custodian, pending background check, April Waybright, substitute aide, Rose Freeman, substitute custodian, and substitute custodian and substitute cook.  All members voted in favor of the superintendents recommendations.

Lambert recommended the rehiring of the following substitute service personnel:  Wendy Gidley, aide, Paula Harsh, aid and secretary, Jamie Nestor, aide and secretary, Sylvia Owens, aid and cook, Aggie Arnold, cook, Rose Freeman, cook, Debra Thompson, cook, Evelyn Cassidy, secretary, Kelly Helmick, secretary, and Homer Carr, maintenance. It was also requested to remove Kimberly Metz as a substitute aide and cook from the list. A motion was made by Evans and a second by Hebb.  All members were in agreement, voting unanimously.

A request was made to extend the ability of the superintendent to accept resignations, post positions, and hire employees, pending board approval at the next appointed meeting. This was initially set up through the end of August at which time school would return, though with the schedule changes, it was necessary to extend the authorization.

Lambert continued with the recommendation to create two new positions that are possible through a grant submitted by herself, Financial Director Tracy Teets, and Special Education Director Kim Lipscomb.  With approval, five county wide itinerant positions will be available for extra-curricular intervention specialist distance learning teachers, which will be for English, math, science, and social studies through a remote delivery, both of which are only for one school year.  The other two positions are for intervention specialist distance learning teacher itinerant, one for elementary age students and one for middle school.  These positions would be geared towards assisting students who qualify for independent education plans and 504 plans that wish to partake in distant learning options.

“A lot of our students who receive specialized instruction are not able to do the virtual courses, the modifications aren’t appropriate,” said Lambert.  It quickly became evident when it was noticed a lot of those expressing interest in virtual school wouldn’t be good candidates to successfully complete the rigorous curriculum, therefore this grant was sought to offer the same opportunities to those students.  “This is just another example of teachers putting students first in the school system,” stated Turner.  Evans made the motion to approve and post these positions with a second from Hebb.

The financial statements were presented to the board along with a contract from Scott Lampinen to provide support, technical assistance, and administrator coaching to school level administration at TVEMS and the TCBOE.

Due to a holiday, the next meeting of the TCBOE will be Tuesday, September 8 at 4:30 p.m. at the Board of Education office.  Masks are required.

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