Dust cause of B-UMS heater smoking; BOE discusses safety

TALLMANSVILLE — Dust built up in a heater underneath one of the stairwells at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School caused it to overheat and begin smoking last Thursday, superintendent Roy Wager said Tuesday.

“It got very hot,” he said.

However, Wager said the evacuation of the school was flawless and the fire department worked with maintenance to find the cause.

Employees are now checking all of the heaters.

“We try to keep up on maintenance but issues do happen,” he said.

The Upshur County Board of Education was able to get some questions they had about school safety answered during an executive session at Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education  meeting at Washington District Elementary School.

Following a lengthy executive session with director of student services Jodi Akers and Jeff Harvey, owner of JH Consulting, board member Katie Loudin spoke on behalf of the board.

“I think as a board we are very appreciative of being caught up to speed on current practices including drills and overall emergency preparedness and safety,” she said. “We recognize we have some challenges and we are working with the superintendent and the administration to make sure we can close some of those gaps in regards to safety. We look forward to continuing the conversation.”

The board of education also released the following prepared statement: “Upshur County Schools participates in a rigorous crisis and emergency response planning effort that has been ongoing since 2006. The process is research-based and utilizes resources from the national and state sources as well as academia. Our personnel train significantly on the National Incident Management System and protected Critical Infrastructure Information program, both national-level programs that support emergency management throughout the nation. We also have a trained cadre of community emergency response team volunteers in each of our schools.

“The program includes an emergency preparedness element as well as a security element.

The security element aims to enforce the county’s closed campus policy and identify and address any issues related to physical (i.e., perimeter and building) security.

The emergency preparedness element focuses on the maintenance of the county’s crisis response plan.

Each school has a building-specific document that is consistent with state guidelines. Upshur County trains its personnel on these plans with up to 40 drills per school year. Preparedness efforts also include engagement with extended partners such as first responders, larger emergency exercises with community agencies, specific training on tactical responses (e.g. violent intruder responses), planning for notification of parents and other stakeholders through the media, and so on.

“All of these efforts keep the safety and security of students in mind. We are doing everything that we can to keep everyone safe. We are learning new things every day and making changes were appropriate to improve these efforts. We realize parents are valuable stakeholders in our efforts. Each of our schools has designated safety committees that include parental representation.”

The statement also notes that the Upshur County Schools Crisis Response Plan is available for review in a redacted form at the board of education office, 102 Smithfield St. from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Blank forms will be provided, if requested, to allow the public to comment on the plan and participate in the overall process.

In other business, the board:

Approved the sale of surplus property, after it had been tabled from the previous meeting, to allow more information. The following buses will be offered for public sale through sealed bids: 201 Freightliner 77 passenger CDL training bus from Fred Eberle Technical Center, 2000 Freightliner 77 passenger bus, 2001 Freightliner 77 passenger bus, 2001 Freightliner 75 passenger bus, 2002 Freightliner, especial education bus and 2004 International 84 passenger bus.

Approved a request from Washington District Elementary for primary students to travel to Pittsburgh Museum on April 19 and for intermediate students to travel to Pittsburgh Zoo on May 4.

Approved Dennis Dawson as Clerk of the Works for the duration of the School Building Authority Tennerton Roof project, scheduled to begin on or about June 11 and conclude by Aug. 1. As the clerk of the works, Dawson is tasked with being an onsite representative to observe the construction process for compliance with job requirements and design specifications.

The next regular meeting of the board of education will be Tuesday, April 17 at 7:05 p.m. at Hodgesville Elementary School.

The board will reconvene its March 13 meeting at 7 p.m. to set the levy rates. In addition, the board will meet for a special budget workshop at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at the board office.

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