The crowd was much smaller at the Oct. 1 meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education, but the passion was just as high as in past meetings.
The school re-entry plan was on the agenda and, as President of the Board Bobbi Ferrell explained, will be until schools are fully back in session. If not on the agenda, the issue cannot be discussed. Ferrell pointed out to the attendees that being on the agenda did not mean a vote would be taken.
Parent Megan Lanning spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, saying she was there to fight for her child’s education.
“I want my child back in school five days,” she said. “I’m asking teachers to get back to the job of teaching our children.”
Major points Lanning stressed were regarding sports, quality of education, and hotspots.
“Why are children allowed to mingle and get close in sports but not be able to be in the classroom,” she asked. “Children learning at home on certain days are not getting the equal education they would get in the classroom. As far as hotspots, getting to those is impossible for some and to have a hotspot at home, you must have cell service which is not available for everyone.”
Leslie Haynes, vice-president of the Jackson County Education Association, urged the board to remain cautious with the re-opening plan. She said the current plan, commonly known as 2-1-2, is allowing teachers to get to know students better and focus on their mental health. She cautioned the board on the metric map used by the governor and state board of education.
“That map is not reflective of our true situation,” Haynes said. “I know of children and parents being quarantined as a precaution but not getting tested.”
While the board did not vote to make any changes to the 2-1-2 plan, member Jim Frazier said that the ratio of students attending various days may need to be monitored and adjusted.
Frazier also said that he had received several calls concerning elementary students not being able to go to the music and art classrooms.
Superintendent of Schools Blaine Hess said that this decision is guided by the West Virginia Department of Education guidelines.
“We’re trying to keep the variables as few as possible,” he said. “Art and music teachers are encouraged to adjust their curriculum to have the more hands-on lessons be held off till the spring in the hopes that we’ll be through this pandemic.”
Lower enrollment is a concern that the superintendent addressed. The enrollment in October is used by the West Virginia Department of Education to determine state aid funding for the next school year.
“Our enrollment as of Oct. 1, pre-K through twelfth grade, is 4,277 which includes both in-person and virtual students,” Hess said. “That is a drop of 205 students who are not enrolled, whether it is moving to homeschool, private school, or some other reason.”
The impact said Hess, barring any legislative action to stabilize school funding, will be on personnel. If things have not improved by April 1 when personnel decisions must be made by the local board, up to 20 positions may be let go.
In other business, board members Ferrell, Frazier, Dan Barnette, and Ben Mize, with Steve Chancey absent:
• Learned that the 638 students, down from the original 1,015, remain in the virtual school program and will continue until the end of the semester
• Hotspots, being funded by a grant, are configured and paperwork will go out soon. A total of 600 will be included in the first round with an additional 600 to follow.
• Approved the comprehensive educational facilities plan for 2020-2029 submitted by ZMM Architects Engineers
• Received information regarding eight policies that are to be revised to reflect state board of education policy
• Approved parent-teacher groups for Cottageville and Ripley Elementary and the Ripley High Choral Boosters as support organizations for the school year
Transfers: Alisha Miihlbach, cafeteria manager/cook III Gilmore Elementary to bus operator Route #11; Jason Farrell from bus operator Route #27 to Route #16
Employments: Roger A. Rose, boys basketball coach Ripley Middle; Jessica Cox, yearbook advisor Ravenswood Middle; Rhonda Williams, universal preschool teacher special needs, Gilmore Elementary; Sarah Kiser, second-grade Ripley Elementary effective Nov. 2; Shelly D. Dale, substitute teacher; Tshanina Price, authorized certified coach cheerleading and girls track Ravenswood Middle
Resignation: Michael D. Farrell, substitute custodian
Other: Teachers after school tutoring and/or detention for Ravenswood High, Ravenswood Grade, Ripley Middle, Kenna, and Evans Elementary; Learning enhancement specialists, all at a rate of $25/hour (complete list at boe.jack.k12.wv.us); Jane Graham, beginning principal mentor at $660/year
The board adjourned into executive session to consider two student matters with no action taken.
The next regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15 at the central office.