Changes coming for early elementary classes and virtual school in 2021-22 school year

Suzette Lowe
Superintendent of Schools Blaine Hess and Board President Jim Frazier present Dr. Torie Jackson, professor, a proclamation supporting WVU-Parkersburg in its 60th year of operation.

As a result of the Jackson County Board of Education’s decision at the May 6 meeting, class size for grades kindergarten-3 will be reduced to no more than 17 students.

Superintendent Blaine Hess and Assistant Superintendent Jay Carnell explained this change was made possible by funding source changes.

“We are able to use Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF) for this,” said Hess. “This stimulus money will go to good use in adding additional positions and keeping others.”

The premise behind lowering class size according to Hess is “to recapture learning loss.”

“No matter how good our summer school is, we won’t be able to get these kids totally caught up,” he said. “This will offer a more proactive, long-lasting solution.”

Carnell also pointed out that by using the ESSERF money, 11 teaching positions have been saved. With the decline in school population, a reduction in staff would have occurred. County funds will be used to fund positions as well.

If there is a large influx of new students or students returning from virtual or home school, the class sizes will have to be adjusted.

The positions that have been added or retained can be found on the agenda under Board of Education at www.boe.jack.k12.wv.us.

Virtual school will be another change in the upcoming school year. Elementary virtual school will be eliminated. Secondary virtual school will be offered for courses not available in the curriculum, scheduling issues or other limited factors.

“This pandemic has proven one thing we’ve really always known,” Hess said. “Students learn better in the classroom, particularly those in early grades.”

Two other pieces of good news were the approval of the school calendar by the West Virginia Department of Education and the audit report coming back from the department's Office of School Finance with no findings.

“We’ve become so used to that with Laura Matheny at the helm,” said Jim Frazier, board president. “We’d be shocked it we didn’t pass with flying colors. She and her team do a fantastic job with a massive task.”

Summer education will see packets being available for grades kindergarten-2 and grades 3-5. The younger children will benefit from packets prepared by Cheryl Miller from Jackson County Early Explorers. The older students will have book challenges and lessons provided by Tracy LeMasters and Rhonda Jellch.

COVID-19 continues to be a concern in the schools.

“Currently there are 18 cases,” Hess said. “This is one of the highest numbers we’ve seen. At least 100 are quarantined at Ripley High and there are double digits at other schools.”

With the anticipation that COVID vaccines will be available for children ages 12-17, a call out will be issued to find the number of parents interested.

The board went into closed-door executive session for discussion of the appointment to a public office. Letters and resumes of potential replacements for Bobbi Ferrell who recently resigned were under review by Frazier, Steve Chancey, Ben Mize and Dan Barnettte. The appointment will be made at the next board meeting on May 20.

In other business, board members:

  • Issued a proclamation of support to WVU-Parkersburg.
  • Approved contracts with Triad Environmental Consulting for $13,414.20 for an asbestos abatement project at Gilmore Elementary, Family Carpet for $58,426 to complete flooring projects in six schools, Partners Too Inc., dba Stanley Steemer, for $11,116 for carpet cleaning, Blue Ridge Termite & Pest Control LLC for $4,512 ($376 per month) for monthly inspection for pests and James Watkins for $1,000 to purchase the hay from the lot behind the transportation building.
  • Approved out-of-state trips for Ravenswood Middle sixth-grade team to Beaver, Ohio, on June 8, Ravenwood Middle (May 11-13, 2022) and Ripley Middle (May 4-6, 2022) eighth-grade classes to Washington, D.C.

Retirements

Mary Ann Mullins, fifth-grade teacher, Evans Elementary, effective July 31; Ralph A. Brown, Route #34 bus operator, effective May 18.

Resignations

Alyssa Galusha, English teacher, Ravenswood High, effective July 1; Candise Anderson, elementary summer school leacher; Beverly Isner and Marquita McIntyre, substitute teachers; Rowena Mullins, substitute secretary; Buddy L. Reynolds, substitute bus driver; and Rosemary F. Burdette, school paper advisor, Ravenswood High.

Employments

Melissa Kimble, substitute school nurse; Jeffrey T. Gibbs and Shane Johnson, substitute teacher; and Michelle Rotenberry, executive secretary, county office.

Transfers

Kathy DeQuasie from Cook III to Cook III part-time, Ravenswood Middle.

Other

Natalie Wayne, Secretary III, Ripley Middle, family medical leave for the 2021-22 school term.

Professional positions eliminated

Title I teacher (Gilmore), Special Education (Ravenswood Grade and Ravenswood High), sixth-grade teacher (Ripley Middle), Spanish teacher (Ravenswood High) and Special Education/Physical Education and History teacher (Ripley High).

Additional personnel items can be found on the board of education website.

The next board of education meeting will be Thursday, May 20, at 7 p.m. at the administration building.