Pocahontas BOE discusses moving fifth grade to elementary school

Marlinton, W.Va. –

Pocahontas County Schools Superintendent C.C. Lester created controversy when he asked the Board of Education to consider moving fifth graders from Marlinton Middle School to Marlinton Elementary School. The board discusssed the issue during its meeting Monday night. Several teachers and staff members attended to voice opinions.

Marlinton-area fifth graders have been attending the middle school since 1985. Lester describes why he wants a discussion about moving fifth graders.

“Well, a lot of movement is for the fifth grade to probably belong in the elementary school because of the socialization, the growth chart,” he said. “One of the studies done by the National Middle School Association for 40 years is that they’re more in line with the mode of fourth grade students.

“But I think we try to grow kids up too quick. And I still feel that the fifth grade – it’s not meant against anybody here – you know, it’s just age-appropriate for the elementary schools. A lot of research says that.”
Lester said the change could be made without any teacher transfers.

Marlinton Middle School Principal Joe Riley tells the board his concerns.

“One of the concerns that we have and an assurance we need is, if these fifth graders leave Marlinton Middle School, whether we’re looking at equality at other schools, and if this is a reaction to get equality at other schools – we don’t want our fifth graders to not get something just because we’re trying to create equality. We want to be assured that they’re going to get, at Marlinton Elementary School, what we can give them at Marlinton Middle School. So, we don’t want to step backwards or go backwards.

“Then another huge concern we have is the fallout of what happens after this. Because we know there’s going to be some. We want to see what that plan’s going to be.”

Board president Emery Grimes says fifth grade test scores must be considered.

“I think what has brought this apart is – and this is my opinion only – is scores,” he said. “Whenever we look at the county and we look at the schools, and we look at the test scores, Marlinton Middle School is low. Guys, come on. I mean, you know, whenever we look at it. If we go from Marlinton Elementary and we look, and when they get up to that point, they drop.”

Teacher Stephanie Burns gives her opinion.

“You know how, when little kindergarten kids first come to school, they’re all excited becasue they just want to learn?” she said. “That’s how fifth graders are at Marlinton Middle School. They love having band with Mr. McLaughlin in the big band room with the instruments. They love beautiful art projects they do with Margaret Baker. They love Spanish with Ms. Groseclose. They want to get their band instruments out before they leave in evenings and play what little songs that they have learned.

“If you walk through the halls of Marlinton Middle School, you would see that my fifth graders are the happiest kids in that building. If I thought, in my heart of hearts, that leaving those children in this building – that they would gain more than they would be losing if they left us – then I would pack up and move with them. But I just don’t think that’s true.”

The Board will conduct a public forum on Wednesday January 23 at 7 p.m. at the Marlinton Middle School gymnasium to hear public input on the proposal to move fifth graders to Marlinton Elementary School.

Stephanie Dilley with the Snowshoe Foundation presented $21,000 in donations to a variety of school groups and programs throughout the county.

Lester recognized high school student Clayton Irvine for receiving a $1,000 scholarship from the State Journal.

Irvine thanks the board.

“I just want to thank all my teachers and my principal, Mr. Sanders, and the Board of Education for the great school and for the great staff working at the school.”

In other business, the board rescinded a previous executive session and approved the transfer of Innovation Zone grant funds to the Family Resource Network.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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