Editor’s note: The following guest column was submitted for publication by Vanessa Perkins, community chair of the Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan committee for Upshur County Schools.
BUCKHANNON — At the beginning of the school year, I was driving my little girl to her school for an open house. The closer we got to the school, her excitement grew. As we approached the parking lot I said, “Look Addi, it’s your school,” to which she replied, “GREAT THINGS HAPPEN IN THAT BUILDING!”
I later thought to myself what a profound statement. Great things do happen in Upshur County Schools!
Lately, the news has been focused on the tragedies in Afghanistan. I can’t help but look back at my time in Iraq and remember the way those children live. In many parts of that country, children don’t go to school because there are none. I am reminded of how blessed we are to live in the freest country in the world where our children have the freedom and opportunities to be educated!
Today, I would like to look beyond COVID-19 and the current global news disasters and focus on the future. The future of our children is bright and paved with opportunities.
For the past two years, the Board of Education has been working on a Vision for Upshur County. They have enlisted their staff, families, businesses and the great citizens of Upshur County to help make this vision become reality. Dr. Stankus and her staff are committed to getting this right! She firmly believes our students deserve better and is always lobbying for funding and improvement! She wants what is best for all our children. Ladies and gentlemen, the vision is huge and solely focuses on our children’s futures.
We have held several community forums and heard both your concerns and must-haves for our students. We have taken your vision and are ready to move forward. We heard you loud and clear: you want a new school!
Now let me explain what that will look like, how we get there and how you can help make it happen.
The Board of Education is required to submit a Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan (CEFP) to the state every 10 years. This plan is essential and plays a very important role in how education in Upshur County will look in the future for our students as well as our community. This plan is most important in obtaining the funding needed to renovate and build new schools!
The CEFP process is tedious, time-consuming and requires research and analysis of a variety of data points. We are pleased to announce that we have been successful in providing the hundreds of pages of data required to move forward to the next phase. Without boring you with all the analytical data, I would like to provide an overview of the community portion of the CEFP and why your role as a community member, parent, guardian, educator and business owner is so important. Dr. Stankus often quotes an ancient African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and she is so right. We need you to be an active part of our village.
During our community forums, we asked participants about their vision of education in Upshur County for the future. The public’s opinion matters most. The responses all had the same theme:
- We need to change our schools to meet the community needs.
- Most importantly, it became clear that our current structures and strategies would not prepare our graduates to fulfill job expectations of the future. Our students need more Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) opportunities; our students need more college dual-credit opportunities; our students need more vocational opportunities; and our students need a new school that is more conducive to a CTE and STEAM learning environment. These facilities and programs need to be built in a way that will allow continued education for adults as well.
As a result, Upshur County wants to provide our community with a CTE and STEAM learning institute for our high school kids – a facility that will allow them to graduate with an associate degree and/or certificates/credentials which will provide them the opportunity for immediate employment at home. This facility will not negatively affect the Fred W. Eberle Technical Center but only allow us to offer more CTE opportunities. To accomplish this, we are building a new high school and renovating the current high school to become the much-needed “new” middle school.
This plan is the bridge between where we are and where we need to be to meet the ever-changing needs of education in the FUTURE!
I am more than just the community chair. I am a mother and a veteran, but most importantly, a citizen of this great county. I have had the opportunity to visit all the great schools, wonderful citizens and deserving students in Upshur County and I firmly believe our community is more than a community of hope. We are a community of action that recognizes our students and our future generations are deserving of so much more! We are a community that is committed to doing better and being better.
We need our great citizens now more than ever to rally around this vision and embrace it. We need them to support it and make it a reality. Our community’s support is the last step needed to make this vision possible. Please become a part of our village and help us build a new high school and provide our youth with reimagined “new” Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School.
In a world full of destruction, hate, drug addiction, wars, losses, global pandemics and mental illness, we can give our children hope for a better future. We can make their future bright by providing them with opportunities that we only dreamed of as children. Our children and future generations of children are relying on this generation to make this vision possible.