WVU Extension Agent for 4-H and Youth Development Craig Presar and WVU Agriculture & Natural Resources Extension Agent Natasha Harris provide an update on activities happening and those planned soon in Upshur County. The duo also presented their annual request for support from Upshur County Schools.

Remote learning days moved to extend students’ Easter Break

BUCKHANNON – During Tuesday’s Upshur County BOE meeting, members decided to ‘rearrange’ two remote learning days in the county in the hopes of giving students and their families a little bit longer Easter Break.

Remote learning day Wednesday, March 31, 2021 will be moved to Thursday, April 1, 2021 and remote learning day Wednesday, April 7 will be moved to Monday, April 5, 2021. This will allow for families to have a break from Thursday, April 1 to Tuesday, April 6, 2021 for the holiday.

During his presentation to the BOE, Facilities Director Tim Derico reminded BOE members that Upshur County Schools had been approved by the West Virginia State BOE to have a remote learning day, but Derico said that day can be moved.

“What we are proposing is to move the remote learning day on March 31 to April 1 and move the remote learning day on April 7 to April 5,” Derico said. “What that would do is to piggy-back on Easter. We already have a nontraditional day on April 2, so that would be an extended weekend or break. We had not looked at that before and thought we could mold that into a break for our kids and our adults that is well-warranted.”

Upshur County BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples said she thought that was a “very good idea.”

Also, during the BOE meeting, WVU Extension Agent for 4-H and Youth Development Craig Presar and WVU Agriculture & Natural Resources Extension Agent Natasha Harris updated members about what they were working on and discussed their annual memorandum of agreement for their budget request, which is the same amount this year at $21,500.

Presar thanked the BOE for their consistent support.

“Cooperative Extension Service – the first part of that is cooperative – WVU cooperates with local boards of education and county commissions for funding to operate the extension service,” he said.

Presar said there will not be 4-H camps this summer; however, he said they plan to “day camp the stuffing” out of the summer.

“We are planning to do a series of day camps about the same time as residential camps would be,” he said, adding that he wanted to talk to someone about what the Upshur County Schools have planned for the summer so he does not compete with those programs. “We want to get kids out and get them learning by doing and get their hands dirty, their knees dirty and help them learn by doing.”

Presar said they are just coming to the end of one of their programs called ‘Adopt a Chick.’ He said there are four counties that worked on this online program.

“We are doing an embryology program,” he said. “We had workshops on poultry production, and we have gone from egg to chick to poultry production. The big difference with us is we have a livestream of the eggs hatching – which will happen tonight. The kids who have completed the program will get chickens to take home – two or three chickens – and we are encouraging them to start their own poultry production, whether that be eggs or poultry for meat, which leads into our livestock program.”

During April, Presar said they will work to safely have some special interest clubs.

Harris said the livestock program the past year had nearly 40 participants.

“Our total livestock sales were $72,000,” Harris reported. “All of that money, minus 3 percent, goes back to the kids and they invest that in college or future breeding projects.”

Presar said the budget amount includes $3,500 which supports the Shooting Sports Program.

“We are still the only school system-4-H collaboration that I am aware of in the country where kids can do 4-H Shooting Sports and earn a varsity letter or pin. To have that support for the 4-H Shooting Sports program is very rare, indeed. We appreciate the help,” Presar said.

He said they have missed the National Archery in Schools program archery season, but said they are doing their own tournament.

“We have one young man, Elijah Bryant, who we are allowing to shoot and qualify for the Nationals,” Presar said. “We think his scores are high enough and we are trying to get him qualified for the National Archery in the Schools Tournament as an individual. We are really, really proud of him.”

In other business, Upshur County BOE listened to public comments from Buckhannon-Upshur High School Choral Director Jeremiah Smallridge, who spoke about concerns he had for Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School Students for the 2021-2022 school year. Smallridge offered advice saying that he felt the 90-minute class blocks for classes could be dangerous for children that are middle-school-aged.

“The kids can harm their voices, for example there could be vocal hemorrhages or vocal nodules,” he said. “As they play instruments, they could develop tendonitis because they cannot play with proper technique for that amount of time.”

Smallridge suggested if B-UMS has 90-minute blocks for classes next year, the arts classes be split up into smaller sections.

“This will give them (band and choir students) more opportunities to have electives,” Smallridge said. “I would like to see students have more than one elective and those shorter options. They also need to be in their ensemble for the whole year. Having them in just one semester will cause apathy.”

Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said no decisions have been made about the B-UMS schedule and reported it is an ongoing process.

“Thank you, Mr. Smallridge,” Stankus said. “We are working with administrators on that schedule. The process is very involved.”

Before adjourning, the BOE also:

  • Voted unanimously to accept the financials as presented. Upshur County Schools Treasurer Jeffrey Perkins reported that 70 percent of the school calendar has passed, and 56.66 of the budget has been expended.
  • Received an update from Upshur County Schools Facilities Director Tim Derico, who said the roof project at Union Elementary School is progressing rapidly.
  • Voted unanimously to accept the personnel recommendations as presented.
  • Stankus told BOE members she took the team to Charleston on Tuesday, March 16, to the School Building Authority and said their presentation was well-received. “I am not sure they have enough money to fund our $2.9 million proposal for Tennerton Elementary School,” Stankus said. “I think it was well-received.” Derico said as everything pans out with funding from the SBA, he said it is their understanding that other school systems have proposed building new schools. “That slides renovations and small additions down on their priority lists,” Derico said. “However, you do not know where the numbers come out regarding the big projects, and there could be a small amount of money left after they divvy out for the big schools. If we are fortunate, our project may hit that and that is a big hope for us.”

Check back with My Buckhannon to learn about who received an Upshur Star during the Upshur County BOE meeting.

The next Upshur County Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

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