Pocahontas Board of Education Discusses Moving Marlinton 5th Grade to the Middle School
At its February eleventh meeting, the Pocahontas Board of Education held a serious discussion about moving the fifth grade from Marlinton Elementary School to Marlinton Middle School. The subject first came up when teachers suggested it at last fall’s Local School Improvement Council meetings at the schools where the Board and school staff discussed issues. Since then, Board Member John Burns has brought it up several times that this needs to be discussed, and not allowed to fall through the cracks.
Board President Joe Walker made it clear from the beginning that at this meeting there will be no action taken to implement any change, just a discussion and figuring out where to go from here. He added that if they are going to do this next school year, they need to move very quickly because the season to make all personnel moves is coming up shortly. Walker said he spoke with Phillip Anderson, the Principal of Marlinton Elementary School about the possible transfer of the 5th grade from his school to Marlinton Middle School. Anderson told Walker that he wanted the Board to talk with his teachers about it. Walker said he will be going to the school personally next week to try and get a feeling for how that school’s teachers view the move, but thinks the staff from both involved schools should be invited to send a couple of staff representatives to the next Board Meeting to present their feelings about it. He said there will probably be some teachers in favor of it, while others oppose it, so he would like them to send one person representing each side. Other Board members felt that all the Elementary and Middle schools should be invited, although some may not want to send representatives.
Board Member Justen Dilley said he spoke to the staff at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School to see how they felt about the move, and they told him that as long as their 5th grade is not involved in any move, they have no strong feeling either way.
There was a question raised of whether Hillsboro Elementary School would also be sending their 5th graders to Marlinton Middle School next year, if the Board decides to go ahead with the idea. Walker said that the issue of equality between the 5th grade students attending Marlinton Middle, and even the Green Bank 5th graders having more resources then they have at Hillsboro, would be the determinant factor of whether Hillsboro 5th graders would also move to the Middle School or not. Dilley said this particularly would pertain to the arts and to Band.
Denise Sharp, the President of the local American Federation of Teachers (or AFT Sharp added that she does not know what the AFT rules would be regarding transferring teachers, and it will take about a week for her to get the answer, since the AFT is currently preoccupied with the pending State Education Legislation. Dilley had wanted to know if the teachers could be simply transferred, or would there be a reduction in staff followed by rehiring them at the new school.
Joe Walker added that while he has not yet made up his mind about the plan, one thing that he sees as being a main issue is safety. He feels the school environment at the Marlinton Middle School campus is definitely safer for students then at Marlinton Elementary School because of all the traffic and people right outside that school’s doors.
Joe Walker questioned whether it might not be better to hold off on any decision to do this since next year they are doing their Comprehensive Educational Plan which will require them to make any decisions about moving, renovating, or consolidating schools, and until that is done, the long-term fate of Marlinton Elementary School itself is in question. This discussion is sure to be ongoing.
In the next part of this meeting story, we will cover all the other things done at this meeting, including a resolution opposing the educational reform legislation pending in the State Legislature, and Mr. Brad Dunz’s concerns about being able to have school buses for the Marlinton Middle School Boys Basketball Team to attend away games.