Pocahontas School Superintendent Talks About COVID in the Schools & the Denied Needs Grant
We caught up with Pocahontas County School Superintendent Terrence Beam who wanted to brief our listeners on the current COVID situation in the schools and that the West Virginia School Building Authority did not approve the Pocahontas Schools’ application for their Needs Grant this year.
“I want to talk about two topics today,” said Beam. “We’re going to start with what’s always on everybody’s mind, and that’s where we are with the COVID pandemic in Pocahontas County. We’ve been able to keep out schools open for the most part. We had to close Marlinton Middle School for a few days before Christmas, because we did have an outbreak. We had a teacher who serves a lot of our students who were exposed, and so we quarantined those students, which led to us having to close the school for three or four days in December. And then a couple of days later, we were short on staff because we had a lot of staff members quarantined, so we were unable to have school on the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas. But, other than that, our numbers have been pretty good. We’ve had a few kids who have gotten sick -a couple have gotten pretty sick- but for the most part our kids have been able to come to school and continue their classes.”
“Today is Wednesday, January 5th, and yesterday, when we got our numbers from Nurse Jenny, we only had one positive case in our school system, and that was a student at Green Bank. And that’s pretty good, compared with what other counties are dealing with, and of course we are still under a voluntary mask order. We do not require the masks for students or employees. And so, combining all those things together, I think we are doing pretty well with that now.”
“We got new guidelines sent down to us on quarantining students on December the 27th -of course we were on Christmas break. Then on December 28th, the next day, we got an updated quarantine directive, and then the next day they said we would be getting something new from the CDC and the State Department of Education, which we have yet to receive. We have a board meeting on January 11th. At that time, we will be discussing where we are at with our reentry plan and where we are with masks and so forth. But I won’t be at that meeting. I will actually be in Charleston. The Superintendents are meeting down there to discuss these topics and hopefully I will get some more updated information on the 11th. I’ll be able to call into the board meeting or call Ruth Bland, who is going to be running the board meeting, and give her the update on what the new protocols are.”
“The second thing I want to talk about is the School Building Authority application we did -the Needs Project we did to try and get air conditioning in Marlinton Elementary School and Hillsboro and the Pocahontas County High School. And there were some other components to that needs assessment. We were turned down. There were 26 counties that applied for money, and I think there were 6 that actually got money. Five of the counties got money for brand new schools and Tayler County got a little bit of money to replace a roof. And that was all the money. There was fifty some million dollars given out and only six counties got money. So, as you can see, the counties that got money got large amounts of money, but it’s fifteen to twenty million dollars, something like that, to build brand new schools. And if you are doing additions, it is, of course, considerably less. But that leaves us with the dilemma what do we do next. We are preparing an application for an MIP, which is a Major Improvement Project, which can be up to a million dollars.”
“We have been very successful with these in the past. With these MIPs we’ve been able to secure money for Pocahontas County High School and Green Bank to do repairs at their schools and improvements, and we are going to do the same thing this year for Marlinton Elementary School. We will be filing an application to replace the roof at Marlinton Elementary School, and also to replace two boilers there. We can get those things under the one-million-dollar threshold that we are not allowed to exceed (under an MIP Project.) Just for informational purposes, when you do an MIP, you can only apply for one school. You can’t do a little bit at one school and a little bit at another school. You got to pick out one school and work on that, and we feel Marlinton elementary School is the one that needs the most attention right now. We just replaced the sprinkler system there, and of course we replaced the lighting in all of our schools, but the roof and the boilers at Marlinton Elementary School are the next priorities on our list, and so we will be applying for that this spring. We will find out if that has been approved sometime in June.”
Thanks for these updates, Mr. Beam.