Pocahontas BOE Adopts WV Updated COVID Protocols but No School Mask Mandate

During the January 11th Pocahontas County Board of Education Meeting, Ruth Bland delivered an update from School superintendent Terrence Beam about the Omicron COVID outbreak. Beam was in Charleston at a State School Superintendent’s meeting. This update said that the State Epidemiologist had told the superintendents that over the next six weeks, it can be expected that there will be a drastic increase in COVID cases if masks are not worn. Beam said this did not mean he was recommending that the board return to an in-school mask mandate, he was just passing that information along to the board.

The board members were also provided updated COVID-19 protocols by the WV Board of Education this month. Those protocols continued to recommend cleaning and disinfecting schools, good hand hygiene, coughing and sneezing etiquette limiting large gatherings outside of the classrooms, keeping students in core groups, social distancing, but left face coverings up to the discretion of the local boards of education.

These protocols also defined “fully vaccinated” as being staff members who have received their primary series of vaccines and if it has been six months since that was done, they also need the booster shot. For students, aged 5 to 17, only the initial shots are required, not the booster, to be considered fully vaccinated. The protocol says that fully vaccinated staff and students who have been exposed but show no symptoms do not have to quarantine, but should be tested after 5 days and wear masks for 10 days.

Unvaccinated students and staff who have been within 6 feet of a positive person must quarantine for 5 days and then it is recommended they be tested. If they have no symptoms, after 5 days they can return to school but must wear a mask through day 10.

If the school system has a mask mandate, exposed students and staff do not have to quarantine.

Any student or staff that tests positive for COVID must isolate for 5 days but can return to school after that if fever and symptom free for 24 hours and are willing to rear a mask for the next 5 days.

Bland told the board that at this time there are 22 students in quarantine in the entire school system. After a lengthy discussion, which included pointing out that many doctors are saying that cloth masks are not effective against the Omicron variant, all the board members except for Sam Gibson, voted to not adopt a mask mandate, and to not hold any further discussion about mask mandates at future board meetings until and unless the school Superintendent tells them they need to do so.  Then, all of the members voted to incorporate the new State Quarantine Protocols into their current re-entry plan.

The board members also advised the school administration that they agree that no sports practices or other activities should be held on days that schools are closed because of snow, and they agree that the decision to allow students to drive to school during times where the weather is sketchy is a parental decision, not a school decision.

Noah Sharp, a 4th grade student at Green Bank Elementary/Middle School addressed the board and asked that they not impose a mask mandate.

New student representative to the board, Rachel Burns was welcomed to her first meeting. She told the board that the boys’ basketball team has a 3-5 record and the girls’ team a 5-5 record.

In addition, the board took up the following:

  • Approved routine financial reports and, in accordance to Federal law, raised the travel reimbursement rate from 56 cents per mile to 58.5 cents per mile.
  • Approved two trips for the spring.
  • Added 4 new fundraisers to the Green Bank school’s approved list of fundraisers.
  • Approved a recommended list of personnel actions, which you can find by clicking on this link to the official meeting agenda as provided by the BOE –1-11-21 BOE Official Agenda PDF

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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