Upshur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sarah Stankus

SBA project proposes pre-K/kindergarten classroom, school-based health clinic and more for Tennerton Elementary School

BUCKHANNON – Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus at the Upshur County Board of Education’s most recent meeting provided board members with an updated proposal to the state School Building Authority for a school construction fund needs project for Tennerton Elementary School.

Stankus presented the proposal at the BOE’s Nov. 19 meeting. In the narrative, it said the proposed project would encompass improvements for life safety, including a new fire sprinkler system, a new intercom and security system as well as a “man trap,” which is a Safe Schools entry system. The project would also provide for the addition of a much-needed kindergarten and universal pre-K classroom, which will afford the opportunity for students currently being transported to different locations in the county to attend their home school.

Additionally, the project includes adding a school-based health clinic to address the growing physical, social and emotional needs of the students.

The proposed funding sources for the project total $2,304,989, and Upshur County Schools is requesting $2,189,740 from the SBA to fund the project. The local funds commitment for the project is estimated at $115,249.

If the funds are awarded to Upshur County Schools, the money would allow for a school-based health clinic so its students can obtain medical services they need, including wellness visits, appointments to address both acute and chronic health conditions, immunizations and behavioral health services.

The health clinic would allow students to stay in school and not miss out on crucial instructional time.

The funds would also allow for a new kindergarten and pre-K environment within the main building at the school. Currently, Tennerton Elementary School students must leave the main building to walk to their exterior classroom. Five-year-old students must walk outside to return to their classroom during breakfast, lunch and snack periods, as well as during physical education and art/music classes.

In 2018, Upshur County was awarded $2,208,389 for additions and renovations at Hodgesville Elementary School and in 2017, the SBA awarded $546,164 for a roof replacement on Tennerton Elementary School.

Also, during Tuesday’s meeting, BOE members voted unanimously to purchase a new van from Jenkins Ford for $28,187. Facilities Director Tim Derico said the van would be used as a maintenance vehicle and that it would be outfitted with ladder racks and tool bins to fit their needs.

“We are in dire need for wheels on the ground and boots on the ground,” he said. “This will allow us to separate our men a little bit easier and disperse them to do the work they need to do. It would be a great advantage to us as far as putting another maintenance guy out on the road.”

Stankus said two advantages of the van are that the contents are locked and secure in the van, and that the tools inside would be safe and protected from inclement weather.

Business Manager George Carver said the state bids out vehicles.

“While Mr. Jenkins is not on the state bid list, he matched what the state bid was for the contracts,” Carver said.

In other business, BOE members heard the second reading of the proposed revised Policy 4003 related to attendance. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison said they had received a few written comments but added nothing was related to changing the contents.

BOE members also received results of the advanced placement and state assessment tests from Mendy Stewart, Upshur County Schools Special Education Director. She said the SAT is administered to juniors and the data compares the results with scores across West Virginia. This gives us the information about whether the students achieved the benchmark and what that means is, they are ready to take college-level English and math courses,” Stewart said. “We are not necessarily moving in the way we would like to in those areas.”

Stewart said of the Upshur County test takers, 105 students tested as ready to take college-level English and 37 students tested as ready to take college level math.

“These are juniors, but there is still a lot of work we need to do,” Stewart reported.

Stewart said this is the first year that data was available on the advanced placement exams. She said in 2015, 83 students took AP tests; in 2016, 69 students took AP tests; in 2017, 69 students took AP tests; in 2018, 66 students took AP tests; and in 2019, 62 students took AP tests.

“The AP students with a score of 3 or better are considered passing,” she said. “Typically, the students have to score a 4 or 5 to get college credit.”

She said she believes there is a correlation between the drop in the number of students taking AP tests and the number of students taking dual credit and online classes.

Finally, Upshur County Schools Student Services Director Jodie Akers gave a report on attendance. Akers said the county’s average daily attendance rate, to date, is 94.56 percent. She said that about 14 percent of the students in the county are chronically absent.

“Chronically absent does not necessarily mean unexcused absences,” Akers said. “We do have some students that are on educational leave trips and those count against us as well as medical. If a student has missed 18 days in a school year, they are considered chronically absent.”

Akers said they are looking at attendance and having discussions with the schools. She said so far this year, she has filed 29 court proceedings related to school absences.

Prior to adjourning, BOE members also:

  • Voted unanimously to approve the superintendent’s recommendation to suspend a service employee following a 10-minute executive session. Stankus said her recommendation was to “suspend Joshua Evans, driving bus 71, for two days without pay, as agreed by the employee.”
  • BOE members voted unanimously to approve the superintendent’s recommendations for resignations, employment, transfers and internal transfers within county locations.

The next Upshur County BOE meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 at Union Elementary School.

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