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Schools to wage ‘penny wars’ in support of Relay for Life

FRENCH CREEK  – During Tuesday’s regular Upshur County Board of Education meeting, school broad members voted to allow Upshur County students to participate in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life Penny Wars, giving kids the opportunity to help others in need.

Robin Oldaker, representative from the Upshur County Relay for Life, explained how the program works.

“We want to involve more people in Relay for Life,” she said at the meeting, which was held at French Creek Elementary School. “What better way than to get our students involved, which gets parents involved? We would like for each Upshur County elementary school to be in a penny war which will begin next week and run until the Friday before Thanksgiving break.”

Oldaker said Upshur County Relay for Life members would provide containers for each school and had written a letter to send home with each student.

“I am going to order fishbowls with a fish in the bottom that says, ‘Keep me swimming – I only swim in coins,’” Oldaker said. “The winning school will be announced on Nov. 25 after Thanksgiving break. We will have a yard sign for the school who wins the penny war.”

Oldaker said she and another cancer survivor are willing to go around and speak with the students and share how cancer has touched their lives.

BOE vice president Katie Loudin asked that the winners be calculated two different ways.

“Academy is a big school, but we have small schools as well,” Loudin said. “Maybe you could just celebrate two winners – overall who raised the most money and also who raised the most money per student.”

BOE members unanimously approved the request for the penny war.

Also at the meeting, student services director Jody Akers gave a report on the wrap -around services offered to Upshur County students. She said there are currently 36 referrals, and five families have refused services.

“There are 19 open cases that have 40 students,” Akers said. “We are very pleased with the progress but we are in need of one or two additional workers.”

School board president Tammy Samples asked about the additional staff.

“So, you want to switch from one therapist to two additional social workers,” she said. “What has to happen paper-wise?”

Akers said originally they were only going to offer services in two schools but instead decided to open services to all of the schools, causing the uptick in the need. She said paper-wise, there just needed to be a memorandum of understanding update that is approved.

FCES principal Kasey Baisden said she feels the counseling services are needed and appreciated by the parents.

“I think that the families definitely want what is best for their kids, but sometimes don’t know how to get to that,” Baisden said. “I think the program is very beneficial.”

BOE members voted to approve changing the memorandum of understanding and bringing it back for a vote. Akers said the money for the positions comes from federal funding.

A request was also made for additional staff for the PALS program – Personalized Alternative Learning Schools. Director of special education Mendy Stewart said there are 14 students in the program.

“Fourteen students is a lot when you look at the needs of the students,” Stewart said. “We are asking for a professional position, not an aide position.”

BOE members approved unanimously the request for an additional professional. Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said they were one under the state formula in professional positions and said the decision would go into effect immediately.

B-UHS DECA advisor Keith Nichols asked BOE members to approve an exhibitor contract for a craft show fundraiser that would raise money for DECA, FHA, Educators Rising and other groups. Nichols said along with crafters, they hope to have face painting, build-a-bear and chicken dinners for sale. He said the FFA hopes to have a petting zoo as well during the craft show.

“It is just a contract for exhibitors who would come and set up at the high school for a 10-by-10 space on Nov. 9 and 10,” Nichols said. “It is for a fundraiser. DECA is a school-based club, which is a business club. We do lots of traveling and represent the school – we went to the state competition last year and there is an expense with traveling. We are putting together a trip for New York City soon.”

Nicholas said the goal is to create opportunities for all students, not just for kids who have parents who are able to write a check for the expense.

“We don’t want to just go out into the community and hold out our hands – our community pours out so much with the levy and other things – we wanted to work with small businesses, so what better way than to provide an opportunity in our facility to have a craft show?”

The board unanimously approved the request for the contract for the craft show.

Maintenance director Tim Derico updated BOE members about what is happening in the Upshur County school facilities.

“We are doing some work orders,” he said. “The cool weather has eased some of the HVAC issues, but at the same time, these issues will rear their ugly head when it gets cooler and we start our heating version of that.”

Derico pointed out that FCES has most of its cabinets and sinks installed.

“That was a huge upgrade,” he noted.

He said the softball lighting is on schedule for the next couple of weeks.

“We want to get that finished, because when the snow stops flying, they will be playing softball.”

The walkway behind Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School that connects the vocational building and the bus garage is pitted, mostly because of salt, is scheduled to be replaced within the next week, he added.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, BOE members unanimously approved the personnel recommendations and talked about the need for vehicle replacements.

Board member Alan Suder said like to see a hunter’s education course offered through the schools.

The next Upshur County BOE meeting is set for Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at 6 p.m. at Washington District Elementary School.

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