Pocahontas School Superintendent Explains Emergency School Evacuation Plans

At the March 13th Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, Terrence Beam, Superintendent of Schools announced the emergency plan that would be implemented in the event that Marlinton Elementary School were to be forced to close for any reason. Here, in part one of his monthly report to our listeners, Mr. Beam provides us with more information about that plan.

“We needed to come up with an emergency relocation plan for our students especially at Marlinton Elementary School but also at Green Bank in the event that our buildings become damaged beyond immediate repair” said Superintendent Beam. “When we think about having to move students out of a school, we don’t think about Green Bank as much as we do Marlinton Elementary School and for good reason. They don’t have a river threat right behind their school that we have to be concerned about, but that building (Green Bank Elementary-Middle School) has roof issues, and fire alarm issues and sprinkler system issues. In the event the building has to be shut down either by the fire Marshall, or, let’s face it, we are getting a lot of wind in this area the last few years and you could have a heavy wet snow that could damage the roof to where we would have to evacuate the students. At Green Bank, really, we don’t have any place to go, we don’t have a large number of choices where to relocate the students to. Yes, we could move some of them to the High School, but I don’t think we could move the whole school up there. So we’re going to have to look in the Green Bank area and see if there is another location for the students to relocate to that we could use in an emergency situation. We need a back-up plan as to how to move those kids.

Marlinton Elementary School is a little different story. We do have a couple of other schools on this end of the county that we plan on utilizing only in the emergency relocation of our students- our roof goes down, the fire Marshall shuts us down, water gets in our buildings, whatever the reason might be and we have to relocate those students. I know it’s not a perfect plan, and we are always open to suggestions on how to better do this, but we need to have something available to us so if we have 24 hours or 48 hours or a week or a month or whatever it is to relocate our students, we have a plan. Our plan is that the Marlinton Elementary students and the Hillsboro students would be transferred to the Marlinton Middle School. We would have to use the gym floor and the stage and any other possible areas we may have to set up temporary classrooms for those students. The (Marlinton) Middle School students would be transferred to Hillsboro.

And I know that raises a lot of eyebrows as to ‘why would you do that?’ Well, my reasoning is that I want to keep all of the students from each school with their classmates. Marlinton Middle School would fit in to Hillsboro nicely as far as the number of students. That way the Middle school could stay together, staff stays together. The custodians would stay on their own sites because they know their buildings. The teachers and all would travel with their students. Now Hillsboro has around eighty to eighty-five students, Marlinton Elementary has  about two hundred and sixty students, so we are talking about three hundred and forty to three hundred and fifty students going to the Middle School, which is not equipped to handle that many students. But, with the gym floor we could set up probably six or seven temporary classrooms with partitions. It wouldn’t be ideal, but emergency relocations are not ideal to start with. But you have to have somewhere where you can get them out of the damaged school and get them into a location as close to their home school as possible.

One other thing I want to throw out – it depends on what type of evacuation we are involved with. If it’s major damage to a building that turns into long term, that’s a little different situation then if it is something we are able to fix in a couple weeks.  Because if it’s a longer term, then we have to get into moving all the desks and all the supplies from one school to the other, we wouldn’t do that right off the bat unless we knew it was going to be a long term process. I know our teachers will have concerns about this and I know our parents will have concerns about this. Again, only in an emergency evacuation situation would we use this. But I do feel that it is necessary that we have a plan in place, because heaven help us if something like that would occur and we’re not prepared in any form for it. So we are going to try to look ahead and plan for the worst.”

Stay tuned to Allegheny mountain radio for part two of this story, where Mr. Beam expands upon the second announcement he made at that Board of Education meeting – a reduction in force of four Service Personnel and two and a half Professional Personnel.

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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