Buckhannon Academy Elementary School Assistant Principal Eric Brand shares information about a new venture at the school, aimed at capturing all the positive happenings at the school. Brand said each student involved in the program went through an interview process where they answered questions, and then received notification through the classroom mail service whether or not they were selected to serve on the Pioneer Press. / Photo by Beth Christian Broschart

Buckhannon Academy debuts school news service, the ‘Pioneer Press’

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon Academy Elementary School unveiled a new school news service this week at the Upshur County Board of Education’s meeting Tuesday.

During the regular Nov. 30 meeting of the BOE, members learned about a new program at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School introduced for the 2021-2022 school year – the Pioneer Press.

The creator of the new project, assistant BAES principal Eric Brand, told those gathered that he gave the students an interview time, or audition slot, to be part of the Pioneer Press, but asked their teachers not to remind them.

“I wanted them to be responsible for their interview time,” Brand explained, adding that the interview consisted of simple questions. “They went through the process, and then we sent out letters in their classroom mail that let them know if they had been accepted to be a part of the Pioneer Press.”

Brand said the goal of the Pioneer Press is to capture positive happenings at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School.

“That is what we have been doing,” Brand said. “There are six students who are ‘booked out’ tonight so they may come up to you and ask for an interview.”

Brand said the students in the Pioneer Press worked to complete the Local School Improvement Council report.

In other news, Upshur County Schools Financial Director Jeffrey Perkins said the system had received one of their new buses, which cost $141,611.

Facilities Director Tim Derico said the schools were experiencing some delays in supplies due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We see it a good bit with HVAC supplies,” Derico said. “Some things are changing – copper piping is about $23 per foot for 2-inch copper pipe. Those prices have gone through the roof. [Regarding] supplies for the restrooms and custodial supplies, I purposely stayed ahead on those so we did not get into a short supply.”

Quentin Oldaker updated the BOE about the new phone system that was ordered and reported that the Upshur County Commission had signed off and ‘given their blessing’ to being the pass-through governmental agency for the grant.

“If you remember that grant comes to the Upshur County Commission and they will disperse to us,” Oldaker reported, adding the timeline for equipment delivery had not yet been nailed down.

Jody Johnson, director of federal programs, told BOE members that Upshur County Schools were about three-and-a-half weeks from the end of the first semester.

“We are meeting with virtual students who are struggling a little bit to see how we can help,” Johnson said. “We are offering support for the families.”

Johnson said one of the real issues with virtual learning seems to be the students are not trained in time management.

“We have not taught students time management because during their entire careers, we have told them what they are going to do next in the classrooms and now that they are virtual, they are unsure how to do that,” Johnson said. “Now we need to think about how to teach them time management.”

Johnson also told BOE members the Upshur County Spelling Bee is scheduled and names have been submitted from each school for participation.

“The spelling bee will be Jan. 13, 2022, at Buckhannon-Upshur High School,” Johnson said. “We are thinking about summer school and summer learning. We are looking at dates and talking to all of the different departments to try and figure out what we are going to offer this year. We will be talking with the principals and figuring this out.”

Finally, Matthew Sisk, director of safety and emergency preparedness, told BOE members he was excited about the direction in which COVID-19 case numbers were headed.

“This is the least impact that COVID has had on the schools since the start of school,” Sisk said. “We have not seen the boom that we expected we would see following Thanksgiving, and I am hopeful our numbers will remain fairly low. Hopefully, the mitigation practices in our schools will have a big impact on those numbers.”

Sisk said there had been a COVID vaccine booster clinic, and school officials are working to organize a vaccine clinic for students that are age 5 or over, adding that approximately 33 people indicated they would like to have their children vaccinated.

There will be a special meeting of the Upshur County Board of Education at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. The next regular meeting of the Upshur County Board of Education is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, at Union Elementary School beginning. At 5 p.m. that day at Union Elementary School, Upshur County Schools will host its final informational meeting regarding the upcoming school bond election.

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