Pocahontas BOE Votes to Keep Parents Choice on Masks until January 11, 2022
By a 4-1 vote at their October 12th meeting, the Pocahontas County Board of Education took consideration of imposing a mask mandate in county schools off the table until at least their January 11th meeting. The vote came after the board heard from several people on both sides of the issue.
A young student, Noah Sharp, told the board that he had passed out in music class last school year because he was wearing a mask which had been mandated at that time. He said he enjoys school this year because there is no mask requirement, and asked the board to not impose one now.
Susan Lane, who has three children in the schools, told the board she opposes imposing a mask mandate. She said that Doctor Anthony Fauci said on video on March 8, 2020 that masks are not effective in preventing COVID-19 and can even make things worse because of touching their faces. She also cited her Constitutional rights as a parent to make the choice for her children.
Nathaniel Sizemore favored the mask mandate saying that not having one has created staff shortages and students missing class in the schools because of the need to quarantine unmasked people who are possibly exposed to someone with COVID.
John Paul Burks suggested that anyone speaking in favor of the mask mandate should be wearing one even when addressing the board, since teachers would have to wear one when speaking to their students in class. He said that there are only three positive cases among students and staff combined in the county schools which amounts to .03%.
Dr. Robert Must addressed the effectiveness of masks, saying there has finally been a large controlled study in Bangladesh which shows the masked group had 11% less COVID cases then the unmasked group. He did not offer a direct opinion about a mask mandate in the schools, but did say that paper medical masks were a lot more effective than cloth masks.
Board member Sam Gibson argued for a mask mandate and was the only board member to vote against Morgan McComb’s motion to not have a mask mandate even be considered until January 11th.
In addition, the board revised their school reentry plan to remove the restrictions on out of state field trips this spring; to reduce the daily COVID “Robo” calls to once a week, and to dismiss schools a half a day early on every other Wednesday through the end of the first semester in December.
Superintendent Beam reported that the SBA has invited the county schools to apply for an emergency grant of $122,244.78 to repair the sewer system at PCHS, which had been damaged in a flood this summer. The board approved this application later in the meeting.
Beam also talked about the excessive heat policy, which is still out for public comment. He said it will be voted on at the next BOE meeting. He is looking at using a standard other then just the outside heat index to trigger the policy’s implementation on any given day. Beam used the example of a day in which the outside temperature was only 63 degrees, but at in least one classroom it was 87 degrees.
Regarding home schooling, Beam said he wants them back in our schools, but not for the money since we are paid by the state for 1,400 students but only have 944 students enrolled, but because those kids need the socialization and what the county schools can provide them beyond what they can get in home schooling.
Lynne Bostic, the Director of Curriculum said some students in virtual schooling are beginning to return to the classroom, and that there are currently 31 students in virtual school in the county. She said that the virtual school in Pocahontas County is using the Proximity Platform which has live instruction that is based on a typical school day schedule. Bostic said the county joined the Southern Educational Services Cooperative which includes 12 other counties as part of their virtual schooling program.
In other matters, the board voted to have a Memorandum of Understanding -MOU for short- with the West Virginia Youth Reporting Services to provide adequate and appropriate educational services to juveniles This would currently only affect two high school students, but would allow them to remain in the county and county schools.
In other actions the board approved:
- Routine financial reports.
- Participation of all county schools in the WV Department of Education’s Purple ?Star Award to support military families.
- Authorizes a PCHS ProStart trip to the Greenbrier Resort in November for restaurant management and culinary arts seminars.
- Approved establishing a STEM based after school video game competition known as an “Esports Team.”
- Approved parent and community volunteers.
- Approved the Modded Squad Car Club to run a Trunk or Treat event on the parking lot of the old School board Building from 4-8 pm on October 30th.
- Approved a recommended service and professional personnel action list.
To see the official agenda for this story which contains the personnel actions click here 10-12-21 BOE Official Agenda PDF
Note that the requested Transfer of L. Brooke Nottingham is crossed out on the agenda personnel list since it was withdrawn. The remaining items passed as shown.
This written transcript contains additional information that because of time constraints is not in the recorded story