Lesson Learned (November 18)

Vital Signs

Census taking for our Upshur County Schools has all the hallmarks of our human body’s vital signs, which are parts of a physician’s history and physical examination. Our Upshur County Schools census for the first quarter of school year 2021 serves as a vital sign for school health.

When I began my professional career as a West Virginia University School of Medicine student in the Fall of 1970, I did not initially realize how “vital” to life and well-being the blood pressure, the pulse, the respiratory rate, and the temperature are, representing crucial markers of life!

Then I began to see patients in the University Hospital in shock with failing blood pressure dropping from 120/80 to low values that would not support blood circulation. Likewise the pulse from the usual 60 to 100 beats per minute might have tachycardia or fast beats that kept the heart from pumping. Babies with dyspnea, no longer breathing 12 to 20 times per minute, turned blue as features of pneumonia took turns for the worse. Body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit represents a normal temperature, but disease states, much like our current COVID-19, often could be monitored for febrile response to the disease state.

My lesson learned at our October 26, 2021, Upshur County Schools Board of Education meeting, held at the Washington District Elementary School, is that our student census shows health and vitality:

Buckhannon Academy Elementary School — 737 students enrolled

French Creek Elementary School — 211 students enrolled

Hodgesville Elementary School — 191 students enrolled

Rock Cave Elementary School — 123 students enrolled

Tennerton Elementary School — 319 students enrolled

Washington District Elementary School — 119 students enrolled

Union Elementary School — 272 students enrolled

Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School — 837 students enrolled

Buckhannon-Upshur High School — 1213 students enrolled

Our student body, like a human body, is growing and maturing. We have 4,022 total students. Last year, by comparison, only Pendleton County and Upshur County grew in student population. The other 53 counties in West Virginia shrunk in enrollment.

Two observations as a physician and as an elected member of the BOE warrant special comment:

We boldly continued to offer Virtual Public Education to our students, learning from our COVID-19 pandemic experience that some students benefited and preferred to remain virtual even as in-person learning opened up again and appealed to most families. From this offering we have 496 students enrolled—258 students are in-county while 238 students are out-of-county.

Washington District Elementary School Principal Gabrielle Thomas-Rhodes reported that the school is bursting at its seams with enrollment. Seven of the kindergarten students who live in district needed to enroll elsewhere. There just was no more classroom space. I ask if this is the first year for overcrowding and found out unfortunately no. What often happens is once a child starts at an elementary school, the family prefers to continue that arrangement.

Thus, our census monitoring and our BOE planning continues. We are doing much so well that we are experiencing growing pains. However, our Upshur County Schools future looks bright. At this Thanksgiving season I am grateful!


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