The Upshur Youth and Community Coalition is working to help coordinate resources, opportunities, activities and guidance for Upshur County youth. Member Don Nestor provides an update on the group to the Upshur County Board of Education Tuesday while inviting community members to attend their meetings and help with the cause.

School officials, SYCC Board to collaborate on proposed Stockert Youth building through new youth and community coalition

BUCKHANNON – Don Nestor, a Stockert Youth Center Board Member, spoke with the Upshur County Board of Education Tuesday to update them on the Upshur Youth and Community Coalition which he said has been meeting since Jan. 26, 2021.

Nestor said the Stockert Youth Center Board has been working on constructing a gymnasium/auditorium addition to the Stockert Youth & Community Center and at one of its meetings, the Stockert Youth Center Board thought it would be best to coordinate with the school system – something Nestor said happens often here in Upshur County.

“We work together for our youth. SYCC Director Debora Brockleman and I set up a meeting with Upshur County Assistant Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison and Upshur County Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus to see how we could fit in with youth in the county,” Nestor said. “Should the building Stockert is building be different than just a gymnasium? Should it be different than that? It went from there for us – we did not want to change anything – we just wanted to fit in and that is what this coalition has kind of done.”

Nestor said the group is growing, and the mission statement for the coalition is “to unite the various entities and organizations of Upshur County to serve our youth by providing resources, opportunities, activities and personal, professional guidance to enhance positive growth and development.”

Nestor said the mission is challenging and exciting – but necessary that everyone work to make sure the group fits into the needs.

He also relayed that in Community Care of West Virginia’s assessment, in the next three years, there will be a crisis in the school systems because of the dual impact of economic pressure and quarantines.

“They are willing to go ahead and do as much as they can for that,” Nestor said. “They have committed to provide a half-time person for a year to work with our group to actually coordinate the programs and the efforts. This person will be a community specialist that will work with the coalition, and it is a good coordination effort.”

Nestor said the next meeting of the coalition is Thursday, June 17 and he invited everyone to attend.

“We want to fit in – whether that is to help improve the quality of tutoring or improving job opportunities with job shadowing – we want to be able to put that together,” Nestor said.

Stankus thanked Nestor for his leadership.

Also, during Tuesday’s BOE meeting, members voted unanimously to approve COVID transportation relief. Chief Upshur County Schools Business Officer Jeffrey Perkins explained that traditionally, the system has relied upon county funds and a number of organizations, such as PTAs and PTOs, to cover the cost of transportation for field trips.

“We currently have the opportunity, over the next four years, to use COVID funding to replace those costs that are associated with an academic cost … where the county would absorb those costs first until the schools raise those funds through other organizations or donations,” Perkins said. “This is an opportunity to help the schools out and make it easier for the large number of field trips that are planned over the next few years. We can use the funds, but it just requires a change in the policy.”

BOE member Kristi Wilkerson asked if the funds could be used for charter buses.

“This is for our county school buses only,” Perkins said. “If there is a requirement for a charter bus, that would be a separate bus and we would approve it on a case-by-case basis – or then somebody could raise funds for that. This money is for our school buses with our students with our bus drivers.”

Upshur County Schools Maintenance Director Tim Derico provided the BOE with an update on Upshur County Schools facilities. Derico said the maintenance staff is deep into renovations at Hodgesville Elementary School.

“We did not get as far last week as we had hoped because of a supply chain issue,” Derico said. “They should be in those bathrooms and finished by the end of the week.”

Derico said there was one major issue at Tennerton Elementary School.

“Sunday evening, the storm caused an issue with power and the generator at the warehouse kicked on at 5:38 and has been running continuously since,” Derico reported. “The power company was there Monday and they had outages elsewhere. To diagnose where the fault is underground takes a crew. They started to identify it last night and then the storms hit, which knocked power out for more consumers, so they left our position and went to larger populated places. They are due back tomorrow (Wednesday) or Thursday.”

Finally, Transportation Director Jodie Akers spoke about two main proposed changes to Policy 9004. Akers said the group agreed to remove the section of the policy that addresses transportation of students by private vehicles.

“We completely took that section out because parents do have the right to transport their students,” Akers said. “The Upshur County Board of Education will not prohibit parents, custodians or guardians from transporting students to or from curricular or extracurricular events with parents accepting full responsibility.”

Akers said there is one section that Upshur County Schools bus drivers felt very strongly about.

“Upshur County Schools shall provide, when available, a school bus for all curricular and extracurricular trips,” Akers said, referencing the section. “Parents can transport if they select to. This is the updated policy we are bringing to you. On the last page, that is where we included the guidelines for transporting students according to the department policy and West Virginia Code – with fewer than nine passengers – that comes directly from code.”

This was the first reading of the proposed updates to Policy 9004.

Tune back into My Buckhannon to learn about Upshur Stars and recognitions during Tuesday’s Upshur County BOE meeting, including recognition of Upshur County art students, outstanding math students, and recognition of retirees.

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