Pocahontas BOE Again Revises its School Reentry Plan
At its meeting on October 27th, The Pocahontas County Board of Education reviewed its School Reentry Plan and for the second consecutive meeting, it made revisions.
At their last meeting, the Board revised its school re-entry plan to open its schools on October 26th for all students, except those in virtual school, to receive face-to-face instruction in their classrooms four days a week. This revision also allowed parents the option of keeping their kids on the two-day per week schedule if they felt uncomfortable with their kids attending on all four days.
Since making those revisions, both the board and the school administration have received numerous requests from teachers for the board to mandate the four-day schedule by removing the parental option to leave their kids on the two-day program.
Many teachers had also informed the board and the school administration that it is just too much work and stress to prepare separate assignments for those few students remaining on the two-day plan while also conducting in-class instruction for all four days for the rest of the students. They said this is especially true because some two-day students attend classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, while others attend on Thursdays and Fridays.
The principals also provided input about this at the meeting:
- PCHS Principal Joseph Riley, told the board that a number of the high school students who remained in the two-day plan were students whose attendance was problematic even before the pandemic, and others are students who had elected to work part-time jobs on the three days per week they were not in attendance. He said many of these students are not doing their home assignments and he recommended the four-day schedule be mandated.
- Principal Julie Shiflet of the Green Bank Elementary-Middle School told the board that while she would like to see four-day in class instruction mandated, if two-day classes remain, that those two-day students be required to attend only on Mondays and Tuesdays.
- Nebraska Scotchie, Principal of Marlinton Middle School told the board that all of her students are already attending class for all four days a week.
- Becky Spencer Principal of Hillsboro Elementary School said she has only a few students still on the two-day a week plan, and all of them attend on Mondays and Tuesdays.
- Principal Phillip Anderson of the Marlinton Elementary School, also recommended that 4-days a week be mandated.
After considering all of this input, the board voted to mandate that all students, other then those in the virtual school, attend school for four days a week, effective November 5th, which is the beginning of the second nine-week marking period.
On another re-entry plan issue, Superintendent Beam told the board that some teachers who remain at the school after normal school hours who are either handling extra-curricular matters or catching up on grading or lesson plans, have expressed concerns to him. He said that because the current re-entry plan does not permit teachers to keep their own children with them in the school building after hours, they are experiencing difficulties and expenses in finding someone to watch their kids. Those teachers requested that the board revise the re-entry plan to allow this. The board decided to make that revision because the teachers have been sacrificing a lot, especially during this pandemic, to educate the county students.
Another issue that was brought up concerned the upcoming basketball season, and whether the risks of spreading the COVID-19 virus during this indoor close-contact sport was worth the benefits of playing the sport this season. Their concern was that if the virus spread throughout the school because of basketball games or practices, it could stop all in-school education. The board, the central office personnel and the principals seemed quite divided about this. They decided to put off any decision until they learn more about the risks and any possible safety precautions that could be put in place. They agreed to discuss it at their November 2nd work session.
Be sure to listen for part two of this story where we will cover the rest of the meeting, as well as the Marlinton Elementary School Local School Improvement Council’s presentation to the board at the meeting.