BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Board of Education met Tuesday evening at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School (BAES) and after much deliberation, decided to shut schools down to students for the remainder of the year. All members were present, with board member Pat Long joining via Zoom call.
After a lengthy discussion, the BOE unanimously voted to immediately implement remote learning until at least January 4, 2021. They added that Fred Eberle Technical Center (FETC) students would still be able to attend in-person classes, as the facility provides instruction to students from several counties. During Director of School Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Dr. Jeff Harvey’s report, he described Upshur County’s COVID numbers as concerning; however, he did share that it seemed the community numbers and school-related numbers have tended to show opposite reactions. Board member Kristi Wilkerson shared that she felt the decision for schools to go remote until the new year would add assurance and peace of mind to parents during all the changes.
Upshur Schools issued a press release on Wednesday, in which Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus reported, “The decision to go remote was ‘extremely difficult,’ but it is the best and safest course for Upshur County Schools at this point. With an increase in positive cases, our ability to safely keep our schools open and adequately staffed has been affected.”
Board of Education President Dr. Tammy Samples added, “This is a difficult time for everyone. Decisions like this are not easy. The health of our students and employees is of the utmost importance. We continue to have substitute shortages, making in-person learning difficult. This also provides parents adequate time to plan ahead. I am hopeful that this extended break will calm the elevated numbers that we are experiencing in Upshur County at this time and we can get back to the business of learning with children in our schools.”
The press release clarified, “All Upshur County teachers and staff will report to the schools during the time of remote learning and be readily available to support and feed our students. We are planning a special curbside, Thanksgiving food box option for all Upshur County families at B-U Middle School on Tuesday, November 24 from 11:00-2:00. This will be the only location from which we will serve during the holiday break.”
Dr. Harvey also shared figures for both the county and state regarding active and recovered COVID-19 cases, as well as deaths attributed to the virus. He explained that the county has been categorized as “yellow” for the positivity rate, but the infection rate has stayed in the “red.” He read that as of Sunday, there were 10 new cases; Monday, there were 17 new cases; and Tuesday added 8 new cases, but Dr. Harvey noted that these statistics would not match up with the state’s numbers, due to contact tracing.
At the time of Tuesday evening’s meeting, Harvey reported six active school-related cases and said 52 were in quarantine. Buckhannon Academy Elementary had one active case and six in quarantine. Buckhannon-Upshur High School had no active cases with eight still in quarantine. Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School had no active cases and six in quarantine. Fred Eberle Technical Center had no active cases and 13 in quarantine, as this also includes Lewis and Barbour County students. French Creek Elementary had no active cases and seven in quarantine. Hodgesville Elementary had no active cases and two in quarantine. Rock Cave and Washington District Elementary both had no active or quarantined cases. Tennerton Elementary had no active cases and three in quarantine. Union Elementary had three active cases and four in quarantine. The transportation department reported one active case and none in quarantine, with the exception of one substitute. No full-time remote students were reportedly active or in quarantine. The Administration Department had both one active and one in quarantine. Lastly, he explained that in the Other category there were no active cases, but one in quarantine, while noting this person is someone who travels between schools.
The board then recognized more Schoology Completers from BAES, which included Barbara Bailey, Brittany Bennett, Tahsha Carpenter, Kirsten Coit-Fetty, Sarah Critchfield, Trinity Currence, Jennifer Dalton, Alicia Egress, Christine Flanagan, Amy Hackett, Daniel Hepler, Kristen Hines, Sherri Hoover, Jessica Howes, Kim Lantz, Megan Lipscomb, Elizabeth Lowe, Amanda Mason, Beth Materne, Tammy McKisic, Julie Mearns, Cheryl Moore, Beth Pickens, Jessica Radabaugh, Amanda Tenney, Kasondra Tracy, Patrina Thorn and Lisa Wildman.
Art students recognized as new Upshur STARS included Easton Perkins, Tori Perkins and Meghan Gould.
Buckhannon Academy Principal Susanne Britton and Assistant Principal Eric Brand recognized custodians Kevin Eshelman, Rosalee Hissam, Wade Sinclair, Rick Gould and Tim Bean, as well as counselor Kirsten Coit-Fetty and Communities-In-Schools Facilitator Krista Sappey, who were all also awarded Upshur STARS.
In other business, the board approved their November 10 regular meeting minutes and the retirement incentive, as well as Treasurer Jeff Perkins’s financial report.
BAES Faculty Senate President Sherri Hoover gave the Faculty Senate presentation. A video was shown for their LSIC presentation, following their students through the daily schedule and answering questions.
Technology Support Specialist (TSS) Quinten Oldaker and TSS/Communication Specialist Kayla Yocum gave the Technology One-on-One report. They reported that all schools automated phone systems have been updated, including the Board of Education. Yokum also announced that Upshur County has experienced the smallest percentage of school enrollment drop in the State of West Virginia.
For personnel, the board approved the following resignations: Shantelle Koon-McDougal and Melissa Cupp as Substitute Teachers; and Joanne Rutherford as Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent.
The board also approved Ronnie Miller’s request to allow his wife, Kim Miller, to be permitted to accompany him on his routes.
Greenbrier Almond thanked Joanne Rutherford for her service with the board, while Katie Loudin thanked BAES for hosting the meeting. Kristi Wilkerson announced that the Parish House is still distributing meal baskets for Thanksgiving.
The Upshur County Board of Education meets every other Tuesday. The next regular meeting of the academic year will be held December 8 at 6 p.m., tentatively scheduled at Union Elementary School.