Upshur Schools approved for remote instruction after Jan. 19, four-day school week, but no decisions have been made

TENNERTON – Upshur County teachers will be available to provide full-time remote instruction to students who choose to learn from home after elementary and middle school students return to in-person school as planned Jan. 19.

At Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting, Dr. Jeffery Harvey, director of school safety and emergency preparedness, told Upshur County BOE members that Upshur County will have their teachers providing full-time remote instruction to students who choose to learn from home.

During Governor Jim Justice’s COVID-19 update Wednesday, Dec. 30, he announced that students in the state would continue learning remotely until Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 when he said all West Virginia elementary and middle schools will reopen to in-person learning five days each week. He also said that all high schools will return to in-person learning five days a week as long as their county is not ‘red’ in the DHHR County Alert System map.

Justice’s order provided special allowances are given for “four-day learning models” in counties whose teachers are providing direct virtual (or distance) learning instruction to their own students, according to a press release following Justice’s announcement. He also indicated the changes will not be mandated to the county school systems and said, “We’re still going to let local control rule the day.”

Harvey told board members the West Virginia Department of Education approved the county’s request for in-person school four days a week.

“The state department did approve our request to be a four-day a week county for that,” Harvey said. “We also received approval in the near term to be able to continue with the 2 p.m. dismissal. We did have to show we have a plan to return to a full day of instruction. So, the 2 p.m. dismissal is approved through Feb. 18.”

BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples said as far as what going back to school on Jan. 19, 2021 will look like, “anything is possible.”

“I think there could be a change by the state department,” Samples said. “That is possible. We are not prepared to make a decision at this point.”

Samples said the BOE has not made a decision, and members are waiting to see if future WVDE announcements are made in the near future.

During Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting, parents, guardians, teachers and concerned residents flocked to the meeting – attending in person and virtually by ‘calling in to listen to the meeting.’ The BOE meeting was held at Buckhannon-Upshur High School and the auditorium was full of people in attendance.

In fact, technology system specialist Quinten Oldaker said more than 100 people were ‘joining in’ to the BOE meeting virtually. The meeting was set up so those attending virtually were also able to ask questions and speak during a public comment portion.

Nothing on Tuesday’s BOE agenda called for a vote as to the specifics of how Upshur County Schools will proceed following the ‘remote learning’ when schools are to go back to in-person learning on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021.

Next, Harvey explained that in partnership with the West Virginia Department of Education, the county is beginning the vaccination effort.

Harvey said it has been designated in the West Virginia State Vaccination Plan.

“Educators are in phase 1-D,” Harvey said. “We will begin vaccinations in Upshur County this week, and they will continue on a regular basis until we get through our population. The initial population we are targeting is educators age 50 or above. I am sure additional information will be shared as it becomes available.”

Harvey said they have been assured they will be able to provide vaccinations to everyone in the system who chooses to be vaccinated.

“We are recipients of the Moderna vaccine,” Harvey said. “This one has a 28-day window in between vaccinations.”

BOE Vice president Katie Loudin asked after receiving the second vaccine, how long until it takes effect.

“From what I have read, typically, there is a seven-to-14-day window to get the full effect of the vaccine,” Harvey said.

Facilities and maintenance director Tim Derico provided an update on maintenance projects that were completed including a new roof on the wrestling facility, which he said had several leaks. He said the sheeting had failed, and the new roof should last many, many years.

“We are currently working on a hot water tank at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School,” Derico said, adding that there were no other major projects going on.

BOE member Pat Long asked Derico to provide an update on the roof replacement at Union Elementary School. Derico said there were nine contractors at the pre-bid meeting and said the bids will be opened on Jan. 14, 2021.

“Once that happens, we can move forward from there,” Derico said.

Kayla Yocum and Oldaker said the technology department continues to offer its Tech Tips for Families and Teacher Tips Newsletters.

“We use these to provide updates and support for our families and community members,” Yocum said. “We post these on our county website, social media pages and we share these with Stockert Youth Center. They are great for sharing these and leave them out when families come in.”
Oldaker said principals who did not receive an iMac computer will be getting those and said secretaries and counselors will be outfitted with Apple products.

“World Book is an online research tool that syncs with Schoology and has been provided by the West Virginia Library Commission,” Yocum said. “It includes encyclopedia articles, primary source collections, student activities, educator tools, games and videos. They are available for teachers to assign to students, so they have access to real-world events.”

Melinda Stewart, director of secondary curriculum, told BOE members that there was a think-tank created to share ways to be successful for delivering remote learning. She said the biggest takeaways are they are building relationships with the students and having regular meetings with them.

“They are maintaining consistent agendas and meeting at the same time with their students,” Stewart said. “Another common theme of success is that they are maintaining routines.”

Stay tuned to My Buckhannon for upcoming articles showcasing the awards of Upshur Stars during Tuesday’s BOE meeting as well as comments from delegations.

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