A major lesson learned every 10 years comes from the conversation around updating our Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan (CEFP). Just as I began my service as an elected member of the Board of Education 10 years ago, I learned that Upshur County has very economically conservative citizens. Upshur County Schools have no bond for new building construction. This has been true for a generation. When we had our last CEFP, the citizens were faced with maintaining aging buildings versus replacing our old Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School with new state-of-the-art construction. We voted to maintain the status quo.
Now after a decade, we circle back to reexamine the lifelong teaching and learning process, seeking excellence in education for which public school buildings are our foundation. The space needs may be altered due to the social and physical distancing requirements secondary to COVID-19. Ventilation including windows and air filtration requirements are changing. The new normal dictates this.
Likewise, the foundation may be altered as we receive clear signals from our community to educate more for employability. Our community spoke clearly, via the Community Committee, that they want a new comprehensive career technical high school, a place where students can learn during the day, and adults can learn and become certified in skilled areas during evening adult classes. Career Technical Education (CTE) requires a new laboratory for learning. The space for high-tech education must be specialized.
Furthermore, the foundation includes proficiency in critical thinking, creativity, questioning, and in exploration of truth, justices, beauty, and moral values. I am concerned that our excellent teachers in Art; Choral, Band and Orchestra Music; Drama; Speech and Language Arts do not have the physical plant requirements to educate our students to the exceptional level. Our motto, “Expect Excellence,” requires this dynamic look at our CEFP.
During our public meeting of the Board of Education, September 22, 2020, held at the Hodgesville Elementary School, we heard from Ted Shriver, Architect, who gave an executive summary presentation. In the written material, he correctly understands that our earnest pursuit is to do all we can for the sake of our children. Quoting Mr. Shriver: “Upshur County Schools takes very seriously the meeting of the needs of all of our students. While we have enough spaces for our students to meet for services and the personnel to deliver these services, the environment should be more conducive to meeting the individualized needs of the students through technology, areas for hands on activities, and opportunities for collaboration and interaction with peers.”
We are all in this together. That thought applies to troubles and pandemics. Likewise, lesson learned—the legal and administrative requirement to complete a Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan every 10 years is our opportunity to do everything we can for the sake of our students.