Board of Ed. continues re-entry, COVID-19 discussions

By Kayla (Hawthorne) Dunham - [email protected]

POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County Board of Education met on Wednesday afternoon to continue its discussion of the school re-entry plan as well as reported COVID-19 cases at Point Pleasant Primary School.

During the meeting, board members Jared Billings, Dale Shobe, Meagan Bonecutter and Ashley Cossin were present. Board member Rhonda Tennant was not present at the meeting.

The board heard from Leon Elementary teacher Amy Grady about concerns from fellow teachers. Supt. Jack Cullen confirmed Grady’s question about teachers being quarantined if a student in their class tests positive. Grady then asked if there would be any learning while on quarantine. Cullen said that if the teacher and class is quarantined, they would be learning remotely.

Jennifer Thomas, with the Mason County Health Department, said that with each case, the contact tracing and quarantine would be considered in a case-by-case basis.

Cullen and Thomas also addressed the changes regarding N-95 masks. Previously, the guidelines were that if teachers wore N-95 masks and goggles, or an approved shield, they might not have to quarantine. The current guideline is that they would still have to quarantine.

Board members Billings and Bonecutter spoke to county health officer, Dr. Wes Lieving about masks and quarantine. Lieving recommends cloth face coverings for all students and staff. Lieving also said that the CDC defines “close contact” as being within six feet for 15 minutes or more.

During the discussion, Cullen presented the board with “hot topics” regarding the re-entry plan.

Cullen said that Point Pleasant Primary School (PPPS) is currently closed, with no staff allowed in the building, due to two positive cases among the staff. The positive cases were announced by Gov. Jim Justice during his press conference on Wednesday.

Cullen said that school will begin for those students on Sept. 17 and they will not begin remote learning next week. Meals will be distributed for PPPS students in the parking lot at the school on Sept. 9. Laptops for students will be distributed on Sept. 16.

Cullen said that staff have been trained on cleaning measures and protocols. At PPPS, cleaning will begin on Sept. 10.

Cullen presented the board with the latest re-entry toolkit from the state department.

The school system is eligible for CARES Act funding. The funding is for two years and can be used for extra employees, supplies and other items. An additional grant will fund technology and internet access.

Curriculum director Dr. Kenny Bond spoke to the board about virtual school. Bond said there are currently 1,145 students registered for virtual school. Of those, 972 are signed up for Mason County’s virtual school option. The other 173 are registered for West Virginia Virtual.

Bond said that he has set a percentage of work that needs to be completed for virtual students to be counted as present.

Bond also told the board that the county will not lose funds for the students who are enrolled in the West Virginia Virtual program.

Cullen said that everyone should push for the senators and delegates to pass a law to carry over funding from last year to this year to cover the changes in overall enrollment. Cullen said that they could lose money if and when students come back to school.

© 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.

By Kayla (Hawthorne) Dunham

[email protected]

Kayla (Hawthorne) Dunham is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.

Kayla (Hawthorne) Dunham is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.