A very special event took place at the Jackson County Board of Education meeting on March 19.

Eugene “Gene” Boggess received his high school diploma. Boggess, who was to graduate from Ripley High School in 1954, instead went to war. The Department of Veterans Assistance and the West Virginia Department of Education authorized the Jackson County Board of Education to award the Korean veteran his prized diploma.

Two brothers, a sister, and a niece were on hand to witness the presentation by Superintendent Blaine Hess, board president Bobbi Boggess Ferrell, and Jim Mahan, director of secondary schools. The family expressed gratitude saying “Who’d ever have thought he’d be recognized?”

“It’s been a long time coming,” Boggess, now 86, said with both a smile and tears in his eyes.

Hess then made his report to the board regarding attendance and the placement of video recording equipment in all special education classrooms.

“Our attendance for the seventh month is slightly behind last year at 91.98 percent,” he explained. “But we’re slightly ahead of last year at this time. We did have a net loss of 11 students, six of whom went to home schooling.”

When asked the reason for those changes to home school, Hess said that he couldn’t speak to those particular cases, but often the child’s attendance is a factor.

Hess went on to say that the state legislature did address the issue of video equipment in special education classrooms.

“We now have the flexibility to move funds to meet the needs of each school,” he said. “We have ordered a number of cameras already. We will be sending out letters to parents whose children utilize those classrooms, as well as the staff. There will be signage in the classrooms as well due to the fact that audio as well as video is required.”

The cameras have to cover the entire room as well as any attached rooms excluding restrooms or changing rooms.

“We have to save the recordings for three months,” Hess said. “If there is an incident, the parent or guardian can request the video within 30 days.”

The response to the COVID-19 situation was discussed in depth.

Both Hess and board members, Steve Chancey, Ben Mize, Dan Barnette, Jim Frazier, and Ferrell, all expressed their appreciation for the “gargantuan effort” put forth by the central office staff, teachers, cooks, bus drivers, and janitorial staffs.

“I can’t thank my staff here at the central office enough for putting the plans in place,” Hess said. “It’s such a fluid situation and they’ve had to adjust as needed.”

But according to Hess it’s the “people on the front line” that make it work.

“Our teachers and service personnel have stepped up to meet the needs of our students,” Hess said. “They’ve made packets, filled lunch orders, and kept in contact with students. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people.”

Delivering meals to students has been one of the biggest challenges. These include both a lunch and a breakfast for each student.

“On Monday 878 meals were picked up at the schools. We started delivering by bus on Wednesday and 3,420 meals were delivered by our bus drivers. We were up to 4,572 meals Thursday,” Hess said. “This means, because each contained lunch and breakfast, we fed 2,286 students. It’s obvious our staff, including those bus drivers, care deeply about our students’ well-being.”

Dr. Keith Burdette, whose job as Assistant Superintendent of Non-Instructional Services includes maintenance, transportation, and food services, said it was obvious that the bus drivers took ownership of delivering the meals.

“We had no absences on Thursday,” he said. “They know the students on their routes and they were determined to take care of them.”

The next challenge to meet will be spring break.

“We were directed by the state to observe our scheduled spring break,” Hess said. “For this county, that is from March 30 to April 3. We are working on a plan to meet the needs of the students during that time as we won’t have staff working that week.”

All documents relating to COVID-19 and Jackson County school policies can be found on the website boe.jack.k12.wv.us.

“Communication is the key,” Hess said. “We’re using our website, social media, and short videos to get word out and keep everyone informed.”

In other business, board members:

• Learned that the World Robotics Championship has been cancelled

• Learned that state assessment tests have also been cancelled

• Learned that all extracurricular activities have been suspended until April 10 at the earliest, with the understanding that this date may be changed depending on the pandemic

• Approved a contract with Alpha Technologies for Category II E-Rate Equipment in the amount of $140,875

• Approved a request of Jason Parsons for his child to attend Jackson County Schools rather than Wood County Schools for 2019-2020 school term

• Approved granting the Superintendent the authorization to make changes to the 2019-2020 School Calendar if developments relating to CoVID-19 warrant

In personnel:

Retirements: Swanee DeRito, custodian Ravenswood Middle, effective July 1, 2020

Resignations: Edward Smolder, Teacher, Physical Education/Special Education, Ripley High School, effective July 1, 2020; William J. Smithson, head coach archery Ravenswood Middle and assistant coach archery Ravenswood High, effective March 11, 2020; Michael J. Philbrook, assistant soccer coach Ravenswood Middle, effective March 13, 2020

Employments: Courtney A. School, Substitute teacher effective 2019-20 school term; Micah Casdorph, paraprofessional/aide special education, Kenna Elementary, effective March 20, 2020; Hannah Hoffman, boys assistant track coach Ravenswood Middle, effective March 20, 2020

Other: Baylee VanKirk, student teacher Ravenswood Grade and Gilmore Elementary beginning March 23, 2020; Kelly Rake, Itinerant Elementary Counselor, countywide, effective March 20, 2020

The board also conducted a special meeting, prior to the regular meeting, to approve proposed levy rates. The next meeting to address this will be April 21.

The next regular meeting of the board will be at 7 p.m. on April 2, at the central board office.