Jackson County Schools to follow new procedures for COVID cases

Suzette Lowe
Special to Jackson Newspapers

Jackson County Schools has moved into a new phase for monitoring COVID cases.

Superintendent of Schools Blaine Hess explained the procedures to board members at the meeting on Jan. 11.

Upon receiving notification of a lab-certified positive case, the Jackson County Health Department will send a text or email outlining the new guidelines recently imposed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In the past, department personnel then made daily calls to check on COVID status. That will no longer be the case.

With a recently created central office position, Pam Crites will oversee COVID cases related to schools.

With protocol changes by the CDC, quarantine periods have lowered from 10 to five days for those testing positive. After five days, if symptoms improve or disappear, students may return to class but must wear masks for five days.

“This applies to athletics and after-school activities as well,” explained Hess. “Even though we no longer, in general, require masks after school, in these cases we will enforce the mask rule. Any student who refuses to wear the mask for the required five days will not be allowed to participate until the time is up.”

If exposed to COVID but there are no symptoms, no quarantine will take place. If the student is exposed but not vaccinated, the five-day quarantine is required, followed by five day of masks.

Once the school is notified of a positive test, the process begins, said Hess.

Home test results will now be accepted.

“We will require a note from the parent or guardian informing of the positive result,” said Hess. “Once received, the protocol will be in place. We will have to rely on communication from parents and their taking responsibility to have children tested.”

Crites will be responsible for overseeing all cases, including making any trace contacts.

Currently there are 19 positive cases in the schools, with 104 quarantined after the holidays.

Hess said the health department has informed him about expectations regarding the Omicron virus.

“They said that we should see a peak with Omicron the first couple of weeks of February,” he said.

Board members expressed concern about students coming to school who are obviously sick. Hess said there is an isolation policy in place until the student can be picked up by parents.

Assistant Superintendent Jay Carnell informed the board that there had been issues with lack of coverage for absent teachers and aides.

“We have had a few classes we couldn’t cover with substitutes,” he said.

After the meeting, he said that classes without substitutes were covered by teachers on planning periods. In some elementary schools, students were dispersed into other classrooms.

Looking to next school year’s curriculum, the two county high schools will be adding a few courses, while eliminating others. Ravenswood High Counselor Shelly Updegrave and Ripley High Assistant Principal Steve Banton presented those changes which included a technical transition math class at both schools.

“This math class will help with technical school preparation,” said Updegrave.

Banton said that the class will be a collaborative effort at Ripley High with plans to be in the classroom part of the time and then applying the skills.

Ravenswood High will add American sign language and French classes, along with a jewelry and ceramic class, while no longer offering photography. Some of those classes will be virtual only.

Ripley High will add a second level of ceramics, a Viking Nook siimulated workplace to enforce business skills, and an introductory music theory class. Classes in technical English and healthy living will be eliminated.

Recognition was given to two educators.

Retiree Jim Mahan was honored for 37 years of service by Superintendent of Schools Blaine Hess and Jackson County Board President Jim Frashier.

Jim Mahan, who retired with 37 years of service, was honored with a plaque and praise from both board President Jim Frashier and Superintendent Hess.

“Thank you for your dedication to education in Jackson County,” said Frashier. “You have served the staff and students well.”

Mahan said it was an honor to have worked in his home county for his entire career.

“Not many get the opportunity to coach, teach and be an administrator in the school system you graduated from,” he said.

West Virginia History Teacher of the Year Adena Barnette was recognized by Dr. Sonya White from the West Virginia State Board of Education.

Adena Barnette, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s West Virginia History Teacher of the Year, was honored for her achievement.

Dr. Sonya White, teaching and learning officer at the West Virginia State Board of Education, when presenting the plaque, said it was a prestigious award for both Barnette and Jackson County Schools.

In other business, board members Frashier, Steve Chancey, Dan Barnette, Ben Mize, with Bea Isner appearing by phone:

  • Approved $267,747 for Ipads for middle school technology program.
  • Approved out-of-state trips for Ravenswood Rave Review to Rayland, Ohio, on Saturday, Feb. 19, and Thornville, Ohio, on Saturday, March 19.

In personnel:

  • Resignations: Maggie Holley, principal, Kenna Elementary, effective Monday, Jan. 17.
  • Transfers: Tonya Sinnett from first-grade teacher to Title I teacher, HJK; Jason Knopp, from social studies teacher half-time to social studies teacher, Ravenswood High; and Micah Casdorph, from paraprofessional/aide/autism/mentor at Ripley Elementary to Ripley High.
  • Employments: Nisha Holley, third-grade teacher, Ripley Elementary; Kevin Shane Casto, athletic director, Ripley Middle.
  • Other: Ashley Matheny, school psychologist, intermittent infant bonding leave from Feb. 1-22.

For more information on personnel and complete COVID-19 policy and procedures, visit www.boe.jack.k12.2v.us.

The next board meeting will be Thursday, Jan. 20, at 7 p.m. at the central board office.