JCEA requests change in school Inclement Weather Policy

Suzette Lowe

The President of the Jackson County Education Association (JCEA) addressed the Jackson County Board of Education regarding the inclement weather policy.

Board members Steve Chancey, Dan Barnette, Ben Mize, Jim Frazier, with Bobbi Ferrell once again appearing by phone, listened as concerns were expressed at the Feb. 4 meeting.

Adena Barnette said the policy, which affected instruction on Feb. 2, required teachers to report to schools to provide remote instruction. If they were unable to be there, or felt unsafe on the roads, they were required to take a personal leave day.

“Due to the inflexibility of not allowing teachers to provide remote learning from home, many of our students missed out on direct instruction,” Barnette said. “Our teachers have only become better and more adept at teaching remotely since last spring.”

Barnette pointed out that neighboring counties either chose to completely close schools with a traditional snow day or opted for a remote learning day, allowing teachers to instruct from home.

“Either of those decisions would have been far preferable to the one made by Jackson County on Tuesday morning,” she said. “If there is concern as to whether educators are truly working or not, administrators have the ability to monitor the online classes.”

Barnette went on to say that education association members are angry and upset and that, “They have lost trust and faith in this school board to make decisions that are based on the health and safety of their employees.”

Superintendent of Schools Blaine Hess did address the issue in his remarks to the board.

“We changed the start to three hours later, rather than two, to allow more time to get roads treated,” he said.

Hess said one of the main issues with using remote learning as an option was that service personnel would not be able to work in that manner.

“We are using tax dollars to pay our employees,” he said. “We can’t have teachers working remotely, while service personnel cannot. Our other option is to go back to the traditional snow day and face the possibility of making up that day of instruction.”

After the meeting, JCEA Vice-President Leslie Haynes said that changing the Inclement Weather Policy would show value and consideration for school personnel safety.

“A small gesture of caring, including offering service personnel options for completing their work, would go a long way to boosting morale,” she said.

Because the item was not on the agenda for the Feb. 4 meeting, it could not be discussed. It was unclear whether it would be addressed at a future meeting.

Another personnel issue has the potential to cause concern as well. With a loss in enrollment, the county stands to lose $1.6 million in funding.

“Dealing with this will be a challenging task when it comes to personnel,” Hess said.

In other business, board members:

• Approved a request from Tiara Kessell to attend Jackson County schools rather than Mason County for the 2020-21 school term

• Had second reading of multiple policy changes to reflect legislative or state board policy

• Learned there are seven active COVID cases in the school system

• Learned that the second dose vaccines will be given to school personnel on Feb. 6; any new vaccine requests must be made through the state registration website

In personnel:

Resignations: Sydney Casto, special education teacher and Stephanie Casto, kindergarten teacher, both at Evans Elementary, effective July 1, 2021

Transfer: Lois Russell, from custodian IV to Custodian III, Ravenswood Grade

Employments: Alyssa Ballard and Jenny T. Greathouse, substitute teachers; Donald L. Ramsey, substitute mason and carpenter; Clarence Canterbury, assistant archery coach Ripley High

Other: Heather Zuniga, school nurse Ravenswood Grade, family medical leave of absence from Jan. 19-April 13, 2021; Jared Hughes, authorized certified wrestling coach, Ripley High; After school tutoring and/or detention, Ravenswood Grade and Henry J. Kiser Elementary (complete list at boe.jack.k12.wv.us)

The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the central board office.