County sees influx of kids in kindergarten

BUCKHANNON — A higher number of kindergartners are preparing for their first day of school this year, and Upshur County Schools is trying to figure out where they will all go.
“Three of our schools are full,” superintendent Roy Wager told Upshur County Board of Education members Tuesday. “In fact, they are overflowing — Buckhannon Academy, Hodgesville and Tennerton — which put us in a bind. I think Union is pretty close. Where we have openings are in the southern part of the county, but I can’t transport kids from Hodgesville to Rock Cave.”
Wager said the maximum students in one kindergarten class is 23, and that’s with a waiver.
“We have 35 signed up [in Hodgesville],” he said. “We usually would send that overflow to Buckhannon Academy, but Buckhannon Academy is full. I think we are going to put a second kindergarten at Hodgesville.”
Preliminary discussions with Hodgesville Elementary School principal Janet Phillips have suggested converting the computer lab into a kindergarten classroom and moving the computers into other classrooms.
An advertisement for a kindergarten teacher position at Hodgesville was posted Wednesday.
Earlier in the meeting, the board of education reviewed nine out-of-county attendance requests, which Wager said were a little more than usual.
“I think part of it is with the Volga-Century School closing and those people weren’t happy with losing their school that some of them are wanting to come to Upshur County rather than Barbour County,” he said. “Of course, it depends on our numbers.”
The 35 Hodgesville kindergartners did not include any from Volga-Century School but were all Upshur County residents, Wager noted.
A few more out-out-of-county attendance requests came in after the deadline to be put on the board agenda. Sometimes the requests are for an Upshur County student to go out-of-county, and Wager said it usually evens out.
“We obviously take in-county kids before we take out-of-county requests,” he said.
Board member Carl “Robbie” Martin made the motion to approve the requests pending availability of space, seconded by Katie Loudin. The motion passed.
The board also approved a memorandum of agreement with the West Virginia University Cooperative Extension Service for $21,500 for the Upshur County Extension program.
Carver said it was a formality as the money had already been put in the budget for the next fiscal year.
The board also approved a renewal of the prevention resource officer agreement for Buckhannon Academy Elementary School for the 2017-2018 school year.  
Wager said, “I think it’s been wonderful for Buckhannon Academy. It has really helped in a lot of different ways.”
Martin said he really liked the program and it was wonderful to hear from all the prevention resource officers at a recent board of education meeting.
Board members reviewed a policy regarding school board effectiveness, but made no changes.
However, the board discussed a different policy that may be considered in the future.
Not long after joining the board, Martin had brought up the idea of having board members call in to meetings, rather than attend in person, if needed. On Tuesday, Samples revisited the idea.
“I’m not a fan per se, but I have been talking to other board presidents and they do permit people to call in to the general session,” she said. “I would be more comfortable [with that] than having someone be on the phone during an executive session. I’m not saying we should do this, I just think we should maybe talk about if that is something that we want to do.”
Samples also said she thought a limit was needed so that it would not be abused.
“It can’t be every meeting,” she said. “We need faces here.”
Loudin said, “I also think that maybe if we need it for a quorum, then the compensation per meeting needs to be adjusted or eliminated. I think it’s something to be considered.”
Wager said he agreed with Samples about not allowing board members to call in for executive sessions because you would not know who might be in the same room with the  board member on the phone.
Samples said she would not support going through with any changes to the current policy unless that was a caveat to exclude phone call-ins during executive sessions.
“You can be in the meeting and you can do votes in open session,” she said. “I personally think we should drawn the line there and that is what other counties have told me.”
But vice president Alan Suder pointed to certain cases that may require an executive session and would still need a quorum, such as student discipline hearings.
Typically, the board meets with Wager in executive session to hear the reasons for the superintendent’s recommendation for a student to be expelled or suspended. The board then re-enters regular session to take action on the superintendent’s recommendation.
The board agreed to continue discussing the issue at a future meeting.

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