The Upshur County Swimming Pool
My Buckhannon file photo

Upshur Parks & Rec Department director discusses how the proposed levy impacts students, families as Nov. 8 Election approaches

TALLMANSVILLE – The Upshur County Board of Education and Upshur County Schools officials are striving to get as much information as possible about what is covered by the Upshur County Schools Excess Levy out to the voters as possible before voting during the Nov. 8, 2022, General Election.

At the last Upshur County BOE meeting at Washington District Elementary School, Jeremiah McCourt, Upshur County Parks & Recreation Facilities Director, talked about what the Upshur County School Excess Levy means to his organization and how the students benefit from those funds. McCourt said for the last two years, the Upshur County BOE has paid for passes at the pool and the West Virginia Wildlife Center for students in Upshur County Schools.

“This past year, we kept track of memberships and we had more than 1,000 members sign up for the passes over the summer,” McCourt said. “We had more than 2,000 check-ins just for that program – so the kids are using their memberships.”

McCourt said kids being outside during the summer and having fun is just what kids are supposed to do.

“I am really thankful for the relationship we still have with the Upshur County Board of Education,” McCourt said. “I am really excited to expand and grow this program year after year.”

The Upshur County Schools Excess Levy, when passed, provides $25,000 yearly for passes for Upshur County school students and their families for admission to the Upshur County Parks & Recreation Facility and for the West Virginia Wildlife Center.

Also, during Tuesday’s BOE meeting, Upshur County Schools Director of Emergency Preparedness and Safety Matthew Sisk said that they had received their COPS grant. Sisk said this grant, in particular, provides for upgrades to the camera systems.

“We truly have a good camera system, but this grant will allow us to take the very good camera system and make it ‘state of the art,’” Sisk reported. “This camera system will notify us when someone is loitering beside a door. It has the ability to pick up what someone is wearing inside the high school – we may be looking for someone wearing a red shirt and blue pants, and it will show us everyone in the building with blue pants and a red shirt. If someone leaves a package near one of the trash cans or near the front doors, the camera system will alert us that someone left a suspicious package.”

Sisk said the other thing this will have the ability to do is allow them to identify vehicles approaching the schools. “

This will take our passive camera system and makes it active,” Sisk said. “I am absolutely elated about this grant. We are also finishing putting in cameras in all of our school buses.”

BOE member Jan Craig asked if all nine Upshur County Schools would be receiving better cameras and Sisk said yes.

Before the end of Tuesday’s BOE meeting, Upshur County School Interim Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison responded to a request from the Oct. 11 regular BOE meeting. Harrison said during that session, board member Jan Craig had asked about having the Upshur County BOE meetings live-streamed so residents would be able to tune into the meetings.

“We have been doing some research, and it is possible to do that,” Harrison said. “Some concerns we have [involve] confidentiality. As we had all of these young folks recognized tonight as we do at all BOE meetings, we would have to know ahead of time who could be videoed and who could not, so that would limit somewhat what we are able to do as far as recognizing students.”

Harrison said all they need to do is let the YouTube channel know 24 to 48 hours before the meeting.

“We would need to purchase some additional equipment,” Harrison said. “One of the things that is a big concern is the transportation of the equipment from site to site. We could, hopefully, be able to find a permanent place because the quality of video and audio would be quite an issue and could cause our technology people angst.”

Harrison said the technology specialists are willing to move on with this but their iPads are not compatible with YouTube.

“There are some glitches, but we can overcome those,” Harrison said.

BOE member Sherry Dean asked about the cost, and Harrison said she did not know the exact amount, but told Dean it is not cost-prohibitive.

“We have been looking for a permanent location for meetings,” Harrison said. “I can give an estimated cost at the next meeting. It would tax our technology [specialists], but it could be done.”

Harrison said if live-streaming does become a reality for BOE meetings, it would be just for viewing purposes, and there would be no interaction between the viewers and the BOE members.

“Also, where we are currently holding our BOE meetings at Buckhannon-Upshur High School will not work for YouTube video live-streaming,” Harrison said. “We are looking for someplace that would be more conducive.”

Board members asked Harrison to check on the price of the equipment and what amount of a stipend would need to be paid to the technology specialists.

Upshur County BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples asked if principals at the schools could select a few students to attend the BOE meetings and lead the Pledge of Allegiance. All BOE members agreed that was a good idea and it would give them the opportunity to meet more students and have them take part in BOE meetings.

The next regular meeting of the Upshur County Board of Education is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15 at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

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