Upshur BOE approves three-option school re-entry framework

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Board of Education on Friday approved the proposed three-option re-entry framework for Upshur County Schools for the fall. The framework presents a preferred option, a modified option and a full remote learning delivery option.

During Monday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting, , members said they felt they could not make a decision regarding the Upshur County Schools Fall Re-Entry Framework because they felt they would be receiving key information later in the week from the West Virginia State Schools Superintendent Dr. Clayton Burch. BOE members said they also were awaiting feedback from Upshur County Schools staff.

BOE members voted to table the decision of the framework until a special session Friday at the Upshur County BOE Office beginning at 4 p.m. All members were present at the meeting, either in person or through online videoconference; however, BOE member Pat Long had some difficulty remaining online during portions of the meeting.

Dr. Jeff Harvey, who serves as Upshur County Schools Director of School Safety and Emergency Preparedness, introduced the Framework for Re-Entry Plan for each of the schools in Upshur County. He said it was written to provide a resource to each school allowing them to consider various aspects of opening in individual ways, taking into account how their buildings are laid out and the natures of each of their communities.

He said there are three different options considered on the Re-Entry Framework proposal.

“We organized it so that it gives the general public an idea of what our proposed operating paradigms could be,” Harvey said. “There are three basic columns – the green is our preferred option, which is a gradual re-entry that turns out into a full five-day academic week, certainly with some precautions in place.”

Harvey said the green option provides for proposed cleaning measures, proposed physical distancing measures and proposed PPE ranging from face coverings to face shields and other PPE. He said the proposal includes things like rotated lunches.

The middle column, Harvey said, includes a modified operation, which was kept intentionally general.

“We were intentionally general on that because we realized we have several options that could present themselves ranging from the temporary closure of individual facilities in the case of an outbreak clear up through closure of multiple facilities or hybrid types of approaches,” Harvey said.

Harvey said the red column is the full remote delivery – what was done earlier in the year – when school buildings were closed.

“That represents fully online for everybody,” he said.

Harvey said by presenting three possible plans, those drafting them believed the variation would allow for flexibility when working with the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department, state health authorities and the state education authorities.

Upshur County Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said Governor Jim Justice ordered that the start of schools in West Virginia be pushed back until at least Sept. 8.

“We created our graduated re-entry beginning on Sept. 8,” Stankus said. “We are bringing in our youngest learners – our kindergarten, preschooler, our sixth and our ninth-grade students – and then we will gradually add a grade a day. By Friday (Sept. 11), we will have everyone back in school.”

Stankus said the group worked to modify the school calendar and asked Curriculum Director Tim Derico to share the details of the modified school calendar.

“What we have done is try to maintain the calendar the BOE previously approved,” Derico said. “We have Apple coming to provide training beginning on Aug. 14, and the staff will work continuously through Aug. 25. Then, we put our OS and out of calendar days until Sept. 8. In essence, teachers will work and then have a short break prior to coming to the start of school. We will still finish before Memorial Day with the last contract day for staff to be June 2.”

Derico said the modified calendar protects the break at Thanksgiving and Christmas; however, it does diminish the spring break to only allow for having off Good Friday. He said the modified calendar meets the 180 required days of learning and would be a 200-day calendar for staff.

BOE member Kristi Wilkerson asked Derico if the school systems were still mandated to have a 180-day calendar, even with the pushback of the start of school by the governor.

“The direction they gave us yesterday was that we try to provide 180 days of instructions,” Derico said.

Jody Johnson, director of federal programs for Upshur County Schools, said they had been in contact with the West Virginia Virtual School Director.

“We are able to offer full virtual classes for kindergarten through 12th grade for students who do not wish to attend the brick-and-mortar building,” she said. “We plan to offer them a device and a remote learning teacher for support to help them navigate that.”

Stankus told BOE members school would stay flexible.

“Each individual case will be handled individually. We have some unique situations in our community with our students and families, and we are sensitive to those needs,” she said. “We are creating a plan, and we will be flexible enough to meet the needs of our family.”

BOE President Dr. Tammy J. Samples thanked everyone for their hard work on the re-entry framework.

“I am aware how difficult these are to complete,” she said. “I am thankful for their dedication to our students and our employees. I really appreciate this, and I am very impressed.”

Stankus said another consideration is how much cost is associated with reopening schools. Jeffrey Perkins, Upshur County Schools treasurer, said a preliminary budget for the first 90 days of school – including PPE, thermometers and dispensers for hand sanitizers – accounts for about $26,000.

“For the additional cleaning supplies over and above what we would normally use in the first 90 days is about another $25,000,” Perkins said. “The third piece is personnel with the extra cleaning being required; the man hours would add an additional cleaning person at each elementary school plus another five, for 12 additional custodians, and that is roughly $30,000 a month. So, the cost for the first 90 days is approximately $140,000.”

Wilkerson asked if there was any indication that the West Virginia state government would help with the cost of the extra cleaning supplies and personnel.

Perkins said they have received an initial grant of a little more than $1 million to offset COVID expenses.

“We do not have any indication there would be any additional monies in addition to that $1 million,” Perkins said.

BOE members unanimously approved the proposed re-entry framework for Upshur County Schools for the Fall.

Also, during Friday’s special BOE meeting, members took the following actions:

  • Learned that Michelle Strader tendered her resignation from the Upshur County Public Library. BOE members did not have a replacement for Strader as of Friday’s meeting.
  • Voted unanimously to approve Upshur County Central Office COVID19 Safety Plan. The Safety Plan details that the office is open for business but by appointment only and details how staff will self-report answers to questions and rules for safe distancing.
  • Voted unanimously to approve the superintendent’s recommendations for personnel.

The next Upshur County BOE meeting is slated for Tuesday, July 21, 2020 beginning at 7 p.m. at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School.

Links to download PDFs of the reopening documents:

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