FRENCH CREEK – For years – approximately 50 years – the theater, choral and band programs at Buckhannon-Upshur High School have worked with a subpar sound and lighting system.
But on Tuesday, choral and theater instructor Jeremiah Smallridge and instrumental music instructor Garrett Friend received the support of the Upshur County Board of Education for help in upgrading the B-UHS sound and light system.
Smallridge said the students are performing very well using extremely limited resources which are not up to code.
“The space we have at the high school is not usable at the moment, so most of our performances are elsewhere because our lighting equipment does not adequately light the stage and it is unsafe,” Smallridge said adding that last year, an instrument fell on a student’s head and shattered. “A lot of the equipment is so old you cannot even buy parts to replace it at this point.”
Smallridge said the original sound system is completely dead.
“We have a small portable sound system that the entire school uses,” he said. “We are asking that we take the initiative to update it so the equipment our students work with matches their ability and their effort.”
Smallridge said students have been very vocal about the much-needed renovations with the gymnasium and sporting equipment, but the band, choir and theater students have come up empty-handed in regard to equipment updates.
“We feel it is time to have this happen,” Smallridge said. He added that technology has changed and that the project, which was estimated at approximately $300,000 a few years ago, would cost approximately $58,000 now.
He said they would apply for a grant that, if received, would pay for half of the cost of the sound and lighting update. He said there are approximately 83 choir students, 90 students in band and about 50 theater students. Smallridge said there are students from B-UHS who attend college on performing arts scholarships and the upgraded sound and lights would be a benefit to not only the students but the community at large.
Jeffrey Perkins, financial director for Upshur County Schools, said that he could find the funds to pay half of the estimate now that it was not $300,000. BOE members voted unanimously to approve paying half of the cost to replace the equipment, pending approval of a grant for the remaining balance.
Also, during Tuesday’s BOE meeting, facilities director Tim Derico said while students were absent from the buildings, his team had been able to do a few things they would not normally be able to accomplish. Derico said next week, a new HVAC unit will arrive for the band room at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School.
“The unit that is currently there is a 1984 model, and it is working; however, the pan at the bottom is rusted so badly it is causing water to come into the classroom,” Derico said. “It will be installed hopefully by the end of next week.”
Perkins said last month at the BOE meeting he updated members on the tax collections, which were then running about 5 percent behind last year’s collections.
“Today, we are about 3 percent ahead of last year,” Perkins reported, adding that it fluctuates, and all is well. “I was happy to see that.”
Perkins reminded folks of the upcoming CEFP update, which will be held for community comments and input on Monday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at Buckhannon-Upshur High School. He said Ted Shriver, architect and education planner with Williamson Shriver Architects, will lead the meeting.
Quinten Oldaker and Kayla Yocum from the Upshur County Schools Technology Department said they have prepared and sent out some ‘tech tips for families’ and said they also posted them on social media.
Oldaker said they have included a sheet of tech tips for teachers.
“We will continue to publish those,” Oldaker said.
Yocum said the tips include sites for students to learn some organizational skills because they are not with the teachers in the classroom.
Stankus thanked the technology department for putting out forms where those asking questions would get a response within 24 hours.
Dr. Jeffery Harvey, director of school safety and emergency preparedness, said every year they submit updates for their school specific and countywide crisis response plan.
“I got that updated, and we are in pretty good shape there,” Harvey said. “We have building labeling and interior room numbering to pick up, but that process is underway.”
Harvey said of the COVID response plan that they made it through the first couple of weeks unscathed.
“There have been a couple of impacts – fortunately, those tend to be from the outside in,” he said. “We tried to keep track of the cases and quarantines that are inside our building – cases are not too bad. Our highest number of active cases we have had on any day is 11 – staff and students combined. The number of impacts has been far more than 11 – it is up into the 70s with staff and students that are in quarantine. I am compiling those numbers and sharing them with the directors and principals daily.”
Harvey said the thing they really want to get out is for students, families and staff to pay attention to symptoms.
“We are imploring our families to not send students to school if they are symptomatic,” Harvey said. “We need to let our faculty and staff know it’s not a stigma if you need to stay home as well. That is something we need to drive home. Also, we need to let people know to stay on the quarantine if they are put on quarantine. I know it is very inconvenient to stay 14 days on quarantine, but I just have to say it’s nice if you give me negative tests during that time, but you still need to stay on quarantine.”
Eddie Vincent, director of wellness for Upshur County Schools, updated the BOE regarding Jamie’s Law, a suicide prevention awareness program for middle and high school students. Vincent said in September at B-UHS, Buccaneer Student Services created a suicide prevention video which was used as an advisory lesson.
“They have used an awareness banner that is posted to remind students of National Suicide Prevention Month, and they are now using a podcast called ‘Smooth Sailing’ that addresses subjects such as suicide prevention,” Vincent said. “Our middle school has completed a needs assessment with questions related to self-harm and suicide. All of the middle school advisory lessons emphasize positive coping and self-care.”
The next regular Upshur County BOE meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 at Washington District Elementary School.
The Upshur BOE is also hosting a special meeting for community input on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 at 7 p.m. at Buckhannon-Upshur High School. This special session is to gather community comments about the CEFP – Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan update.