BOE votes to return four days a week with 3:15 p.m. dismissal after waiver denial

BUCKHANNON – Beginning March 8, Upshur County students will meet for in-person instruction on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with dismissal being at 3:15 p.m.

The Upshur County Board of Education held a special meeting virtually on Monday, March 1, 2021 after their waiver request to begin in-person learning four days a week with a 2 p.m. dismissal was denied on Thursday, Feb. 25 by the West Virginia State Board of Education.

Classes for the remainder of this week (through Friday, March 5) will meet in-person on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with dismissal this week being at 2 p.m.

During Monday’s special meeting, BOE members voted to have students return to in-person learning four days a week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday – each day until 3:15 p.m. beginning March 8, 2021. The motion said that Wednesdays would be used for remote learning and cleaning and was made by BOE Vice-President Katie Loudin. BOE member Pat Long seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

Following the vote, Long asked Upshur County School Superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus to contact school principals about the BOE’s desire to have “unaccountable and failing students brought to task,” meaning full-time remote students who are not passing their classes or are not in contact with their teachers. Long asked that those students be contacted to either require that they attend in-person or develop a plan to complete their assigned work.

Stankus told BOE members that goal has been in the works.

“We have been doing that already,” Stankus said. “Teachers have been calling families – principals and teachers have been going to visit families. As soon as the Board decided to bring everyone back, we have already started to do that. We will meet after this meeting.”

Long said he believes this has been a very difficult year.

“Our staff has performed marvelously beyond anybody’s expectations,” Long said. “Certainly, we made mistakes, but we have weathered through them and done well, and we will continue to make this system better.”

BOE member Dr. Greenbrier Almond likened the situation to a patient who gets well then gets sick again.

“We are in that cycle, especially with this virus,” Almond said.

Loudin said she would like to revisit the situation and keep an eye on the number of full-time remote learning students.

“I hope we can consider a five-day week in the future,” Loudin said.

Monday’s meeting came on the heels of the Tuesday, Feb. 23 Upshur County Board of Education meeting at which BOE members voted unanimously to have students return to in-person instruction four days a week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday — with a daily dismissal time of 2 p.m. beginning Monday, March 1.

This action followed a meeting of the West Virginia State Board of Education where they asked counties to return to school five days a week with in-person instruction. However, because so many students were still involved in full remote learning, the Upshur County BOE opted to ask for a waiver to allow in-person instruction for four days ending at 2 p.m. because the county’s teachers facilitating in-person instruction are also delivering learning sessions to those who are learning from home.

During that Feb. 23 BOE meeting, BOE member Pat Long questioned if students could return to the four-days-per week 2 p.m. dismissal before the waiver was approved. Long was assured that most likely, the requested waiver would be approved by the WV State BOE.

However, news broke Thursday afternoon that the request for a waiver had been denied. Upshur County Schools released a statement that day saying the West Virginia Department of Education advised them that Upshur County students were to return to in-person learning either four days per week with a 3:15 p.m. dismissal or in-person learning five days per week with a 2 p.m. dismissal time.

The release went on to say that Upshur County School stakeholders would collect survey results from school employees regarding the approach they though would be the best to support students in the county and said the BOE would meet Monday, March 1 at 1:30 p.m. to discuss those results and possibly vote to take action.

The next Upshur County BOE meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 8 at the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Auditorium.

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