Pocahontas BOE’s USDA Distance Learning Grant Finally Approved

At the November 2nd Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, School Superintendent Terrance Beam announced that after two years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Distance Learning and Tele-Medicine grant has finally been approved. The BOE applied for that grant about two years ago when the COVID-19 Pandemic was causing schools to close to in-person teaching and resort to distance learning as an alternative. At the time, many students lacked access to internet devices needed for distance learning, and the purpose for applying for this grant was to obtain devices for all students from kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12.) Approval of that grant kept getting delayed, so eventually the schools used alternative funding to supply devices to students from 8th grade through 12th grade.

With the approval of that grant now all students from K through 12 will have devices. The approved grant is for $434,779.00 which is about $50,000 less then the amount the schools requested. In addition to this, the schools are receiving another $400,000 for Internet connections from Earmark funding obtained by Senator Joe Manchin. Among other things, that Earmark will probably enable outside internet connections to be placed at Green Bank Elementary/Middle School, which are needed because it is the only school without wireless internet because of its proximity to the Green Bank Observatory.

Beam also informed the board that they are asking the School Building authority (SBA) for 7.6 million dollars for school facility upgrades which, if approved, would ensure all of the schools will have new air conditioning systems among other improvements such as boilers, roofs, windows and doors to some of the schools. The SBA will announce their decision on this on December 13th.

Laurie Wayne addressed the board, thanking them for all their support to the Green Bank school following the tragic death of a second-grade student who attended school there. She also expressed support for early dismissals on Wednesdays so teachers can prepare and conduct meetings with parents. Wayne also asked the board if they could do anything about the soccer teams having to play in a section that includes some double A teams, saying that is unfair and prevents them from winning because of schools like Charleston Catholic being in the same section.

Beam addressed these points, saying that Pocahontas County Schools are one of only four counties in the state doing early dismissals on some Wednesdays, and of those four, Pocahontas County is the only one doing it through December, while the other three -Mineral, Jefferson and Berkley- will end their early dismissals at the end of November. Regarding the placement of single A and double A teams in the same sections, Beam said the WV SSAC does not allow input from the School Superintendents on issues like that, but Principals have some say. He agrees that a lot of schools are upset with this and thinks it will be addressed.

Beam also said their Slaven Property in Green Bank will go up for auction at 2 pm on Friday, November 12th and any proceeds received from that sale will be used for facility improvements and repairs.

In other actions at this meeting, the board:

  • Approved the process for the annual evaluation of the Superintendent for the 2022-2023 school year in accordance to the template developed by the state.
  • Approved a revision of their Excessive Heat in Schools Policy.
  • Approved allowing the “Restricted Substitute Waiver” for the remainder of the school year as needed, pending approval of the state,
  • Approved “in-state” travel by private vehicle to tournaments by the PCHS VEX Robotics Team during their season which runs from December through March. These will be paid for by the PCHS STEM Club.
  • Approved Green Bank Elementary-Middle School 8th grade students to travel by charter bus to Virginia Beach on June 6, 2022 through June 10, 2022. This trip will be paid for by fund raising.
  • Approved former Green Bank Elementary-Middle School 8th grade students to travel by charter bus to Virginia Beach on June 6, 2022 through June 10, 2022. This trip will be paid for by fund raising. This trip was originally scheduled for May 19th through May 22nd, 2020 but was postponed because of the pandemic.
  • Approval of the following additional school-based fundraising events for this school year, to be added to the Green Bank Elementary-Middle School’s fundraising list.
    • RADA
    • Spaghetti Dinner
    • Cake Walk
    • 50/50 Drawing
    • Yeti Cooler Raffle
    • Flower Sale
  • Approved the recommended personnel actions, which can be found by clicking on this link to the official BOE agenda for this meeting – 11-2-21 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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