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BOE approves COVID Leave Policy and band uniforms for Ripley High

Suzette Lowe

The Jackson County Board of Education meeting began as it has so many times before, hearing concerns of teachers regarding the return to five-day a week in-person classes.

Adena Barnette, president of the Jackson County Education Association, spoke to the board regarding a poll of all county personnel completed last week. Barnette said around 200 employees had responded to the survey.

The questions regarding how comfortable employees are in returning with the current re-entry plan and any fear related to in-person instruction, received a high percentage (61.5 percent) indicating fear, with 73 percent saying they felt uncomfortable.

The two main reasons given for those percentages were the inability to social distance and the high COVID rate in the county. Most did agree that all schools should be on the same plan if open and all closed if the county is red on the DHHR map. The original 2-1-2 model was the preferred choice for instructional days. This plan saw separate groups of students coming two days each with Wednesday separating them.

When asked after the meeting why the survey was taken, Barnette said it’s important for employees to be heard.

“We didn’t expect a change in policy at this meeting,” she said. “The board does need to know how their employees feel and information is powerful. Honestly, our biggest concern at this point is that children don’t have a vaccine available, which means they can take COVID back to their grandparents and other vulnerable people.”

Two rounds of COVID vaccines have been offered to all employees, age 50 and up, with 335 participating.

The board approved a locally funded COVID Leave Program that extends paid leave opportunities through March 31. This extension follows the guidelines of the federal Families First Coronovirus Response Act which expired on Dec. 31, 2020. The policy covers quarantine, COVID diagnosis and caring for an individual with COVID. The full policy can be found at

The Ripley High School Viking band received good news.

At the Jan. 7 meeting, band director Eric Staats requested that the Board approve issuing a purchase order to obtain uniforms for 120 students. At the meeting Thursday, the board approved that request which totaled $100,697.85.

The Ripley High Band Boosters will have various fundraisers to reimburse the board for the expenditure. Any monies already raised will be provided to the Board. The current band uniforms are 13-years-old.

In other business, members Ben Mize, Dan Barnette, Steve Chancey, Jim Frazier, with Bobbi Ferrell appearing by phone:

• Learned there are five active cases of COVID in the school system

• Learned Superintendent Hess will be meeting with principals in the next two weeks for the purpose of personnel planning

• Learned Hess has been appointed to a task force to address teacher preparation programs in West Virginia colleges and universities

• Had first reading of multiple policies under review for changes dictated by the State Legislature or State Board of Education (complete list can be found at

• Approved contracts with Tecta America for roof repair at Ripley Middle and roof replacement at Gilmore Elementary, and Murray Sheet Metal for roof replacement at Ripley High

• Approved March 26, 2021 as the date to conduct a surplus property sale

• Approved the purchase of 70 MacBooks for middle school teachers at a cost of $91,840

In personnel:

Retirements: Jackie Moales, special education teacher Ripley Middle, effective June 30; Steven D. Hunt, teacher, effective Feb. 8

Resignations: Deidra Darst, speech language pathologist Kenna Elementary, effective June 30; Michael A. Hupp, substitute teacher; Melissa Yost-Haynes, custodian III Ravenswood Grade

Employments: Nathan Donohew, bus operator Route #22; Alexis Adkins, substitute teacher; Austin McCune, substitute bus operator

Other: Lisa Carnell, teacher Ripley Middle, extension of medical leave through the remainder of the school term; Dani Hupp, teacher HJK, infant bonding leave from Jan. 29-March 29; Kerigan Gandee, teacher Ravenswood Grade, from Feb. 22-March 9; James Burgess, bus operator extra duty assignments; James Burgess, bus operator substitute extracurricular assignments

The next meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 4, at the administration building.