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Educators express concerns at BOE Meeting; Mandatory masks for all grades being considered

Suzette Lowe
JCEA President Adena Barnette addressed the board with member concerns regarding the adopted re-entry plan.

Even though expecting no change in the procedure, educators expressed their concerns with the school re-entry plan at the Jackson County Board of Education meeting on Sept. 3.

Adena Barnette, president of the Jackson County Education Association (JCEA), spoke to board members regarding a survey of members.

“When asked which plan our responding members supported,” Barnette said, “it was an overwhelming 90 percent in favor of the original plan. They felt it was one that allowed for greater caution and ability to readjust as needed.”

Barnette was blunt in her remarks to the board.

“Many surrounding counties have gone from yellow to orange on the metric map,” she said. “Jackson County’s numbers continue to rise. Our people are worried about quarantining if there are positives. They are worried about the virus being taken back to parents or grandparents.”

Masks were part of Barnette’s presentation as well. This concern was also addressed by second-grade teacher, Elizabeth Cummings.

“I strongly encourage the board to make a directive to have every student in Jackson County Schools wearing masks unless medically excused,” she said. “Research shows young children can transmit this disease. They can adapt to wearing masks.”

After the meeting, Barnette and JCEA vice-president Leslie Haynes both said they knew there would be no action taken at this late date by the board.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure that our member voices are heard,” Barnette said. “Most teachers didn’t contact the board after the first re-entry plan was adopted because they were so pleased with it.”

Haynes and Barnette said there were many stakeholders who had input into the first plan.

“This second plan caught us completely off guard,” Haynes said. “We are grateful for the PPE supplies our county is providing and the steps taken for protection, but not being involved with the final plan the board adopted is very concerning.”

Superintendent Blaine Hess said he has been researching masks for second-grade students and younger. The decision for that will be coming soon.

Hess also asked the board to consider for a future meeting the issue of outside organizations wanting to use schools for events.

“Our administrators are getting requests,” he said. “Our greatest concern is sanitizing after usage. You may want to consider requiring the group to cover the cost of extra hours for custodians.”

Hearing that 1,027 students, which is 22 percent of enrollment, are enrolled in virtual school, board member Jim Frazier once again expressed concern for students not being able to opt-out after Sept. 30.

“I am really concerned that, if a student is floundering in October, he’s locked into virtual school till the end of the semester,” Frazier said. “I understand that’s the state rule but it’s concerning to me.”

With the beginning of school, the superintendent said he will be sending out a call reminding parents which day their children are to attend school the first week.

“It can get confusing,” he said. “Obviously, this is not something we’ve ever had to do. And I do want to commend our teachers and staff for the training they’ve completed for remote learning.”

The board received a gift from Delegate Steve Westfall at the start of the meeting. The United States flag that flew at the state capitol on July 16, 2019, honoring the Jackson County Board of Education was presented. Delegate Westfall also donated United States flags flown over the capitol to each school.

In other business, board members Frazier, Bobbi Ferrell, Steve Chancey, Ben Mize, and Dan Barnette:

• Learned that Sept. 14 will be the first public meeting to discuss the 2021-22 school calendar

• Approved Ripley High boys’ soccer team for a regular-season game in Athens, Ohio, on Sept. 22

• Approved Appalachian Head Start to continue 11 collaborative preschool classrooms for the 2020-21 school term

• Approved the following preschool service contracts: Kiddy Korner Child Care Inc. ($217,317.86), Kinder Kare Child Care ($120,447.14), and PATCH ($93,627.12)

• Approved a contract with Sound Solutions for the Flinn Field sound system at a cost of $16,333

• Approved two agreements for Jackson County and Roane County Schools to provide bus operator training services for the other county

• Approved a memorandum of understandings with Marshall University and West Virginia State University for placement of teacher candidates and other school personnel and with Coplin Health Systems for dental, primary healthcare, and behavior health services

• Approved out of county student transfer requests from Michael and Angela Barker (Wood County) and Shawn Black (Roane County)

• Learned that athletic events, which will provide no tickets for sale at the gate, will follow West Virginia SSAC standards for spectators

• Learned that the school meal program has been extended until Dec. 31, 2020

In personnel matters:

Retirements: Cathy Pitts, paraprofessional/aide, Ripley Elementary; Adam Hill, assistant junior varsity football coach Ravenswood High

Resignations: Mary Coulter, Route 51 bus aide

Transfers: Keri Starcher, first-grade Evans Elementary to assistant principal Ripley Elementary; Adda Bailey-Standish universal preschool special needs Gilmore Elementary to Ripley Elementary; Sydney Casto from Title I teacher half-time Ravenswood Grade to special education multi-categorical with autism Evans Elementary; Kayla Bargerstock, fourth-grade Cottageville Elementary to sixth-grade Ravenswood Middle; Joshua L. Lupardus Jr. from bus operator Route #28 to Route #08; Jennifer Good, custodian III Cottageville Elementary/Ravenswood Middle to custodian III Ripley High (Jan. 25, 2021); Ernest Tackett, custodian III Ripley High/County Office to custodian IV Ripley High (Oct. 1, 2020)

Employments: Jordan Matics, fifth-grade Fairplain Elementary; Roy Woodard, custodian III Ravenswood High; Rebecca Martin, bus aide Route #51 a.m./p.m., extra-curricular; Bonnie Harrison, Ginger Mullins, Lori Mahan, Hailey Miller, Jason Knopp, substitute teachers; Jennie M. Walker, substitute secretary; Vicki Skeen, substitute aide; Ethan A. Koontz, assistant baseball coach Ripley Middle; Stephen Baldwin, assistant softball coach, Ripley High; Adam Hill, assistant varsity football coach Ravenswood High

Other: Rebecca Anderson effective date of medical leave changed from Aug. 31 to Oct. 6, 2020; Vanessa Carte rescindment of leave of absence for infant bonding; student-teacher Lydia D. Sheets from Sept. 8-Dec. 4 Ripley Middle; Bryan Canterbury, authorized certified coach boys basketball Ravenswood High; Jennifer Scholl, authorized certified coach boys and girls tennis Ripley Middle; substitute bus drivers, bus operators extra duty assignment and substitute extracurricular assignment and Ripley High and Ravenswood High cooperative educational students list available at

The board went into an executive closed-door session at 7:44 p.m. to discuss the superintendent’s goals.

The next regular meeting of the board will be at 7 p.m. on Sept. 17 at the central office.

The flag flown in honor of the Jackson County Board of Education at the state capitol was presented by Delegate Steve Westfall to board president Bobbi Ferrell.