POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County Board of Education voted to keep preK-eighth grade students on blended plans, despite the state board of education’s motions on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the West Virginia state board of education passed a motion to require all preK-eighth grades to be in full, in-person classes beginning March 3. However, as previously reported by the Register, counties with their own virtual programs could apply for a waiver to keep a blended program.
On Tuesday evening, Mason County’s board voted 4:1 in favor of signing the waiver to remain on a 4:1 blended learning schedule. Board member Rhonda Tennant voted against the measure stating the goal all year was to return students to classrooms five days per week.
Other board members said they felt making another change to the plan would disrupt someone — either more strain on teachers or affecting the education for students. Many board members agreed that by going five days, teachers would give up the Friday planning day, which benefits them in their many tasks and allows the approximate 600 virtual students to receive the best education they can. Board member Meagan Bonecutter said she wanted students in the classrooms for five days, but noted that it was almost March and the board has made so many changes this year to the schedules of students and teachers.
Board members even counted the number of Fridays left in the school year and discovered only 10 days would be added for the in-person students.
The board heard from Adam Watson, Beale Elementary principal, who said the Friday without students in the classroom allows teachers to do many jobs, including planning, grading, preparing, scheduling meetings, etc. Watson said many of the virtual teachers spend hours each weekend working on lessons, as well as in the evenings after school. Watson said he too would like students back five days per week, but if teachers are doing the county led virtual school, they needed the support. Watson said many teachers are feeling “defeated.”
Also at the meeting was Melissa VanMeter, Wahama High School principal, who agreed with Watson, saying some teachers are experiencing “burnout.” VanMeter asked the board to consider signing the waiver and leaving the blended program as-is.
A parent was also at the meeting to speak to the board about his elementary child who arrives at home around 2 p.m., which used to be 4 p.m. last year. The parent also said his child is failing and he feels he needs to repeat the school year. The board members explained how two bus routes are running to reduce the number of students on the bus at one time, which results in students getting out of school earlier than last year. In addition, board members also said children all over the country are in the same position academically due to the changes in education this year.
During the meeting, the board also recognized this current week as National FFA week and signed a proclamation presented by members.
The next Mason County Board of Education regular meetings are scheduled for Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. and March 9 at 6 p.m.
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Kayla (Hawthorne) Dunham is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.