Pocahontas School Superintendent Update About Schools’ COVID Status

In this two-part story, Pocahontas County School Superintendent Terrence Beam briefs us about the current statis of Pocahontas County High School, which had remained closed in January when Governor Justice opened all K through 8 schools, but not all high schools, since they were not allowed to open as long as their county’s daily COVID-19 infection map remained in a red status.  Beam also talks about the possibility of county schools opening for full five-days per week instruction, rather than the current half-day Wednesday closures.  He also gives us the current number of COVID positive students and staff, and the number currently under quarantine.

Mr. Beam, I understand that the High School has now opened for instruction. Can you tell me how that came about and where we are with it right now?

“Yeah, after we moved from red to orange that enabled us to bring our high school kids back to school” said Beam. “Mr. Riley and I had discussed having a day in between when the map changed and when we actually brought the students back, but the map was changing so often, and we had missed so much school, that we decided we’d just go back the next day. And I did have a couple of calls from parents thinking that was a little difficult on parents to adjust that quickly. We understood their concerns, but our thoughts are that we’ve missed so much school already, we don’t want to miss anymore days then we had to. Since then, we’ve been able to stay in school.”

Now, what happens if we have a virus spike that ticks up to red for one day?

“If we checked the map at ten o’clock and let’s say it had been red, then tomorrow we would not have school at the high school.  It wouldn’t affect preK-8, but it would affect the high school. And that would include practices, game, everything would be cancelled for the next day. Let’s say the following day we would be back to orange, that would get them back to school immediately the next day.”

I’ve been to the schools and visited classrooms, the kids seem to be doing well. We’ve had a couple of little bumps along the road like we expected to have, but nothing we couldn’t deal with. When you get around these kids, you can see how happy they are to be back in school. They missed their friends so much, and of course they missed a lot of academics. As I’ve been in the classrooms, one of the things I’ve notices, and talked to the teachers about, and the principals have shared this with me, is as they were doing their benchmarks to see what kind of progress their kids have made, and of course the progress is not where we want it to be, but it is not nearly as low as we figured it could be. The kids are doing better then we thought that they would be doing on the benchmarks.”

“Today is Wednesday, February the tenth, and we are currently yellow on the map, so we’re definitely trending in the right direction. Yesterday, Nurse Jenny sent me an updated list on where we are as far as the number of students who are sick, or quarantined or whatever. The numbers she gave me -and this was as of yesterday, which would have been February the ninth- we had no positive staff members; one positive student; no staff in quarantine and nine students in quarantine -which of course came from the student who tested positive.”

A high school student?

“It was not a high school, no.”

“You asked me earlier when we were talking before we started the interview, about the staff who still needed vaccines. Well, we are getting close of the ones who requested.”

Be sure to listen for part two of this interview, in which Beam talks about the effects of this pandemic on the upcoming high school and middle school winter and spring athletics; about how the students are faring now that they are back in school; about a possible option for students to attend a June summer session to help them catch up on their pandemic challenged educations and about an exciting future project they will be developing for future years.

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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