POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County Board of Education provided updates about food distribution and plans for the rest of the year on Tuesday morning.
Supt. Jack Cullen and board members Jared Billings, Meagan Bonecutter, Rhonda Tennant and Ashley Cossin updated on how staff members were executing sudden changes to the school system.
Cullen said the school system would continue to distribute meals to students as long as food is available. Meals are scheduled for the weekly distribution on Wednesday morning. Cullen said that around 100 more people registered for meals this week than last week.
“We’ll continue to do what we’re doing along the bus routes,” Cullen said. “That’s the best way to get meals out to kids, because probably the most needy kids don’t have access to transportation to go to a site.”
The funding source for the meals changed and the school can now provide food to any child 18 year old or younger and they do not have to be enrolled in Mason County Schools.
Cullen said Food Service Director Beverly Glaze is looking to secure funding for a summer feeding program. Cullen said there are grants available and they hope to continue.
Cullen said that many of the school employees are assisting with the food distribution process —including maintenance workers, school administrators, teachers aides, as well as volunteers such as church members, retired teachers and the school board members.
Mason County is unsure of how the rest of the school year will continue in West Virginia. The decision will be made by the governor. As of Tuesday morning, schools in West Virginia will be out through April 30. Cullen said they are making plans to return in May as well as not returning this year.
Cullen said they are also working on plans to hold graduation ceremonies. The original graduation dates, which are still scheduled, are for May 29 and May 30. Cullen said if they can keep those plans, they will. Virtual options are available to schools but Cullen said they could also consider holding in-person graduation later in the summer. The same situation could be an option for prom.
On Tuesday afternoon, after Cullen made these comments, Governor Justice announced West Virginia schools would not meet in person for the rest of the school year. There are no new updates on how Mason County will plan for these events.
Cullen is waiting to hear from the state department about career certifications for those in technical fields. They will need permission from the governor to allow students into the career center to work on technical skills to obtain their certifications. Cullen said these students would have to follow local health department guidelines for proper precautions.
The school calendar will switch the schedule for May 12 and June 9 for election day. June 9 will now be a holiday or an outside school environment day.
BOARD MEMBER COMMENTS
Board President Jared Billings spoke on behalf of the board to thank all school employees for their work during this time.
“We are very proud of our Mason County School employees, Billings said. “They’ve all stepped up from Supt. Cullen leading the charge, setting the plan out there, working with all of us to make sure this is completed. … The administrators, the teachers have done an awesome job. They’re still teaching the kids and being creative. … Our bus drivers are still out running the routes. Our maintenance guys that he spoke of have been a huge plus as well. We have retired teachers and aides riding buses. The board members are riding buses to make sure these kids are getting their meals. We are very appreciative of what this system has done.”
Billings also said the nurses were out there making sure those helping with meals were safe and had the proper equipment and taking the proper precautions.
Member Rhonda Tennant said it’s important to support each other during this time and appreciate the small acts of kindness around us.
“Even delivering these meals is going to get more difficult,” Tennant said. “I think we need to keep in mind how wonderful it is that everybody’s working together the way that they are and supporting each other.”
Tennant said the school counselors were posting on social media pages to provide families with resources if people need help or are struggling during the pandemic. High school counselors are also working to provide information on scholarships and deadlines for seniors.
Board Vice President Meagan Bonecutter said she appreciated everyone stepping up and helping wherever they were needed. Bonecutter also mentioned how parents have stepped up as assignments have been removed to remote learning. She also mentioned that some children are struggling with the change and not being able to say goodbye to friends and teachers.
Member Ashley Cossin said she has noticed several teachers nearly everyday online wanting to help students and parents understand assignments and concepts are they are trying to work remotely.
“It speaks volumes to what kind of employees and people we have here in the county who have been able to take such a surprise situation,” Cossin said.
© 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Kayla Hawthorne is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.