How will The Pocahontas Schools Spend All This COVID Relief Money?
On June 15th we sat down with Pocahontas County School Superintendent Terrence Beam who wanted to talk to our listeners about several topics, the first being the funds the school system will be receiving from the Federal Government’s “American Rescue Plan” and how the Pocahontas Schools plan to use that money.
“I’m sure our citizens have been reading in the paper and hearing on the news that the government has allocated millions and millions of dollars to the school systems throughout the country,” said Beam. “It’s called the American Rescue Plan, It’s part of the COVID relief packages and Pocahontas County (Schools) has been given 3.4 million dollars to spend between now and September of 2024.”
“Anytime the Federal Government gives you money, there’s always strings attached. There are certain things we can spend this money on and certain things we cannot. So, I want to clarify that for the citizens of our county.”
“First of all, a huge chunk of this money has to go towards ‘learning loss.’ And that is to work with our students to help regain some of what they lost over the last sixteen-eighteen months during the pandemic. What we are doing is adding Classroom Aides to our K through 5 schools. Each of those three schools -Hillsboro, Marlinton and Green Bank will get an additional Aide to work with students in that school. Also, we are increasing the number of Academic Interventionists in our schools to now include all five schools. We are going to be hiring nine of those. Two at each school with the exception of Hillsboro which will get one because of their limited enrollment. We will be adding a Technology Support Specialists who will be working with all schools on their computers, to make sure their computers are working; updating their computers; working on networking and those types of things; troubleshooting any computer issues we have in our schools. We have two Technology Support Specialists now but we will be adding a third. And also, we will be having after-school programs for all five schools for at least the next two years, and hopefully three years. And for those after-school programs, we will be hiring our employees to work after hours four days a week, and we will be using our activity-run busses to take the kids home who want to stay for after-school programs. We are also looking at adding a supper program, so those kids would actually receive a meal while they are here for after-school. That’s kind of still in the works, but I think it is something that is going to happen. I am working with Laurie Doolittle, our Food Service Director on that.”
“The next part of the learning loss is the summer school program. We are currently having summer school at the high school. We didn’t get as many students in as we would have likes, but I think that was simply because kids and employees were just worn out this year after all the stress and strain of going through what we’ve gone through. We are hoping that next summer we will have more interest in our summer school program, and we will continue that for the next couple of years.”
“And, our Community in Schools Program is a program that we currently have at Marlinton Middle School, Pocahontas County High School and at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School. It’s comprised of three individuals who work with the parents in those schools to help them help their children with their studies and also to help them connect better with the school and with the activities going on at the school.”
“So, that’s part of the money that we have to use of this 3.4 million dollars. The largest part of this is labeled ‘discretionary money.’ It’s 2.5 million dollars, We have three years to spend it, but it has to be spent on air quality, HVAC, or doors and windows, in other words, anything having to do with air quality in your schools. We can’t use it for things we need done in our school system because it is not related to air quality. But what we have decided to do is to air-condition and heat -change the heating systems and air-condition- Marlinton Middle School and Green Bank Elementary/Middle School. The 2.5 million dollars should cover the cost of those two installations, that we hope will take place within the next year to eighteen months.
Listen for Part 2 of this interview in which Mr. Beam talks about how other school facility repairs and needed upgrades which are not covered by the funds from the American Rescue Plan will be dealt with by the Board of Education.