Board of education asks that dismantling of middle-school library stop until they receive more info

TENNERTON – The Upshur County Board of Education has asked that the dismantling of the Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School library be placed on hold until they can confer with the school’s principal.

Board members asked that B-UMS Principal Samantha Leput provide them with an update on the library and its proposed use during the regular May 9 board meeting.

The library discussion began during the April 11 board meeting when board Vice President Jan Craig asked about students at B-UMS no longer being permitted to check out books or use the library for research.

During the board’s most recent meeting April 25, Craig asked for an update on her question from the previous board meeting about the library. Upshur County Schools Interim Assistant Superintendent of Schools Melinda Stewart answered Craig, saying she had received an email from Leput regarding the occurrence.

“Mrs. Leput responded that the middle school does not currently have a librarian,” Stewart read. “They used volunteers in the past to run the library, but the volunteers are not able to dedicate the time it takes to keep it up-to-date and current.”

Stewart said Leput wrote that the middle school administration gave the English Language Arts teachers at B-UMS the option to take books from the library first. Then, they will allow picks from the rest of the staff by reverse seniority so the newest teachers can develop in-class libraries for their students.

Stewart reported Leput said there is “a plan for the middle school to work with the Upshur County Public Library so all the students may obtain a library card and that, because of the iPads the students have, they have access to digital books through the West Virginia Library system.”

Leput’s email went on to say that B-UMS plans to use the library space to create a STEAM library where they will house their robotics equipment and 3D printers, as well as space for students to work on their PBL (project-based learning) projects.

“What a shame,” Craig responded.

Board member Daya Wright agreed.

“I mean, we are talking about helping to save the Upshur County Public Library, and we have children within actual feet of a library that they are not able to use,” Wright said. “I find it incredibly disappointing, even if it is not within our purview to affect — incredibly disappointing.”

“Is there going to be a plan for when these teachers clean out the library that other teachers will know what books they took in case they need those books?” board member Roy Wager asked.

Stewart replied to Wager, saying, based on what was presented to her, no.

Craig said she had already asked B-UMS teachers that question and was told the teachers “were just assigned a time to go to the library and take what they wanted.”

Board member Sherry Dean asked how middle schoolers would be transported to the Upshur County Public Library to take out books.

Stewart told Dean she thought that was a great question, and the answer was not specified in the email received by Leput.

Craig said given the technology students have, she is not sure they can download and read books.

“That is correct; that is a blocked site,” Wright said.

Dean said students were not being transported during the school day to the Upshur County Library to check out books.

“Libraries are not going out,” Dean said. “Libraries are huge, and if you go to other states, their students use libraries immensely.”

Wright asked if someone could talk to the Upshur County School Technology Department to see if they could enable the devices so students could download books from the West Virginia Library site, and Stewart wrote that idea down.

“But don’t get me wrong,” Wright said, “that is not the same thing as walking into a library and saying, ‘I like frogs’ and having a librarian point to a book that is going to match you.”

Upshur County Schools Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Debra Harrison suggested asking Leput to come to the next board meeting to share her vision for the B-UMS library. All board members said they thought that was a great idea.

Craig requested that the dismantling of the B-UMS library come to a halt at this time until after Leput reports to board members.

“I appreciate receiving answers to my questions, and I am just sorry I had to ask them,” Craig said.

Wright said Craig asked those questions.

“I had no idea that our middle school was losing their library,” Wright said. “It is book-burning from within.”

The next Upshur County Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, in the Buckhannon-Upshur High School auditorium.

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