By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
With the meeting of the Tucker County Board of Education being the first of the new fiscal year and with a recent election, the first item of business to conduct was to elect a Board President and Vice President. Both positions serve a two year term, which will run July 1, 2020 until June 30, 2022. Newly re-elected board member Daniel “Chopper” Evans made the nomination to reappoint Tim Turner to the position with a second by board member Jessica Wamsley. The board voted unanimously to uphold the nomination. President Turner then made a motion to reappoint Evans into the role of Vice President with Wamsley making the second and all in agreement.
Superintendent Alicia Lambert briefed the board on the West Virginia Department of Education guidance pertaining to reentry to school for the 2020-21 school year. Unfortunately, no new information has been released from the state relating to requirements and recommendations, nor has there been a timeframe announced, “Which is very scary for us local systems,” confirmed Lambert. “So it’s very difficult to make a plan when you aren’t sure what the requirements are going to be,” she said. With the recent resignation of a Department of Education employee and announcement by Governor Jim Justice mandating masks, it is expected that guidelines will be altered.
Lambert announced that regardless if guidance from the state is received after this week, the schools will be working to devise their own reentry plans. “We just can’t afford to wait any longer,” she stated. “What we’re looking at, we kind of think that our best bet is to have a plan for all situations,” she continued. The Tucker County Health Department determines which phase the county is in based on the number of cases of COVID-19 in the county. The phase one plan, and most preferred, is to return to school five days a week. Phase two would be students attending four days a week, phase three is termed blended learning and consists of two days in school and two days virtual. The worst case scenario would be phase four where students would return solely to virtual learning.
“We are buying chromebooks for every student in grades three through twelve,” Lambert explained where teachers will be utilizing google classrooms for online, virtual platforms if needed. Initially, students wouldn’t be required to wear masks if they remained in the same classroom or pod all day allowing just the teachers to rotate; however, with the new guidelines set forth by Governor Justice, it is unknown what will be required moving forward.
A survey was sent out to parents which yielded 454 responses. “Of those responses, 42 people indicated that they were going to homeschool their children,” Lambert announced. She asked each school to reach out to those families to determine if this was a definitive decision or if this option was selected because of the unknown. The breakdown of students per school consisted of six at Davis Thomas Elementary Middle School, 24 at Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School, and 12 at Tucker County High School. Once contacted, it was understood that several families are waiting to decide after the re-entry plans are announced. “With the Governor’s mandate of masks, it may change things and I fear that we may lose more students to homeschooling because of it,” she admitted.
Once the phase plans are compiled, a new survey will be sent out to the public to include the five days a week option as well as the masks. Board member Cathy Hebb asked what these phases will do in terms of class size. She responded that the class size won’t be affected as long as they remain in their pods, which is approximately 23 to 25 students. Elementary students, or grades preschool through fifth, potentially will remain in their homerooms with their assigned teacher for the duration of the day, including lunch. Middle school students’ teachers could rotate throughout the day and could potentially eat in the cafeteria if a schedule could be developed to incorporate three lunches to limit the number of students at a time. As for TCHS, this is the most complicated because of non-traditional schedules, though the block schedules are a benefit. This will alter some of the programs that have been successful in the past, including the gifted program which typically went to TCHS once a week.
Evans asked on behalf of a parent of a high school student if those students could be transported daily by their parents versus riding the bus. Lambert stated, “The buses are my biggest concern,” in how to transport students safely. Turner asked for Transportation Director Jonathan Hicks to work on a plan of action regarding safe transport to and from school to present at the next board meeting. “We have to do as much pre planning as we can and we have to make sure that the parents and the kids get the word,” stated Turner.
Hebb and Wamsley made a motion to approve the consent agenda items, which included the minutes from the June 15 regular meeting, and payment of bills. Hebb asked Finance Director Tracy Teets about a $10,000 payment to Eastern Corporation for services, which she stated was part of the TVEMS grant project and will be reimbursed.
A large list of student transfer requests were presented, which has to be done annually. This is to allow students who wish to attend a school outside of their district to attend a public school within Tucker County. All members were in favor of approval.
The Superintendent made a recommendation to approve the retirement of Donna Stout, second grade teacher at TVEMS, effective June 30, 2020. Hebb made a motion to accept with a second by Board member Chris Gross. A resignation of Jonathan Cooper, custodian III at DTEMS effective June 30, 2020, was also received and approved with a motion by Gross and Evans .
Lambert continued with the recommendation to hire the following: Cynthia Shaffer, Assistant Principal at TVEMS effective July 1 pending background check, Tara Dilly as a fourth grade teacher at TVEMS effective August 19, Joseph Michael , second grade teacher at TVEMS effective August 19, and Elizabeth Liptrap as half time physical education and health teacher at TVEMS, effective August 19 pending background check and certification. Wamsley made a motion with Hebb making a second and all in favor.
Under service employment, Lambert recommended the employment of Richard Hull, custodian III for DTEMS effective July 1, along with Randall Davis, custodian II at DTEMS effective August 19. Within extracurricular employment, she made the following suggestions for employment: Adam Freeman, assistant football coach at TVEMS effective with the 2020-21 school year pending background check and certification, Crystal Kirk as head volleyball coach at Tucker County High School, and Judy Pitzer as Assistant Volleyball Coach at TCHS, both effective with the 2020-21 school year. All voted in favor of the recommendations made by the Superintendent.
The second reading of the homeschool policy was performed. Two date corrections for the 2020-21 BOE meetings were noted with a request to change September 7 to September 8, 2020, and June 21 to June 28, 2021. Hebb made the motion to make the necessary corrections and a second was made by Wamsley.
A calendar of events was reviewed announcing the following dates: August 19, first day for staff, August 25 being the first day for students in grades first through twelfth, August 31, first day for Kindergarten, and preschool beginning on September 8. The next meeting of the TCBOE being held on Monday, July 20 at 4:30 p.m. The meeting will continue to be held via virtual platform until further notice.