POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County School Board of Education announced a new COVID-19 dashboard and football season cancellation for Hannan during the regular meeting held earlier this week.
Superintendent Keith Burdette said a new dashboard has been added to the board of education’s website for the public to monitor the number of active coronavirus cases at each school in the county.
Burdette said the dashboard will be updated a few times a week.
“We created the base, starting with the information we had yesterday [August 23],” Burdette said. “Based on the information the health department provided us.”
The numbers are not student specific according to Burdette.
“Those numbers are combined, a combination of staff and students,” Burdette said. “Say there are five students at Ashton, that’s not the case. At that point, that may have been students, it may have been all staff or it may have been a combination thereof. It’s just the number of confirmed, active cases.”
Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School had 10 cases, Ashton Elementary had five cases, transportation had two cases and Beale Elementary, Leon Elementary, New Haven Elementary, Point Pleasant Intermediate, Wahama Junior/Senior High and the Central office/itinerant each had one reported case — giving the county 23 active cases across the schools.
Burdette said there are a number of students quarantined, but he was unsure of how many.
A virtual meeting was held with the state and local superintendents to discuss face coverings, Burdette said.
In West Virginia, 26 counties are mask-optional in all locations, this is where Mason County is currently; 20 counties are mask-required in all locations and nine counties are only requiring masks on buses.
“They did report to us today that, up to this point in time, most outbreaks around the state have been tied to extracurricular and co-curricular activities,” Burdette said. “That may change a little bit as time passes, we’ll just wait and see.”
Burdette said WorkForce West Virginia is funding an administrative secretary position.
“That person will be helping establish whenever we get setup for vaccinations clinics or contact tracing or those types of things,” Burdette said. “[They will] continue to inventory our personal protective equipment and that sort of thing.”
The state department of education, partnering with the Department of Health and Human Resources will soon be offering COVID testing for students with parental consent at no cost.
“When they are ready to start that, then we can make it available for people to take advantage of that,” Burdette said. “Again totally free, totally at parental consent.”
Hannan High School will be cancelling this year’s football season due to a shortage of players.
“They made a lot of efforts to try to find enough players,” Burdette said. “The principal and the coach all talked to the students at Hannan High School to try to get enough but they just couldn’t gather enough participants to fill a team this year.”
Burdette said it is required to have 18 players to start a season and 14 to continue and since it did not look like that would happen, Hannan decided out of courtesy to other teams to go ahead and cancel.
Board Member Ashley Cossin mentioned Hannan Junior High had to cancel their football season as well, due to a lack of players.
Earlier in the meeting, Lewis Marcum stood up to thank the board.
“Five days a week with no masks, well the choice to wear masks, I know that’s a big deal for you guys and I just wanted to say I appreciate it,” Marcum said. “For the first time my boy came home the first few days and he’s talking about school and he’s talking about his classes, he’s talking about learning, he’s talking about homework. I’m thankful for you guys, I’ve got your back here. I think you’ve done a wonderful job starting out this year, that’s basically all I wanted to say.”
Assessment results from 2020-21 were presented by Kenny Bond, director of curriculum and instruction.
Bond said the state was down an average of 15% and that the scores for Mason County were a direct result of the pandemic.
Noting that Mason County Schools was one of four counties in that state that did not go full-time [five days a week] last year. Generally students spend 108 days in the classroom. With the split schedule for Mason County, Bond said those attending Monday and Tuesday went 78 days and those attending Thursday and Friday went 80 days.
It was also noted during the meeting that the school days were cut by almost two hours.
Bond said when the state released the test scores they also released data on what was missed.
“Another thing that did not change is the testing standards did not change for the State of West Virginia,” Bond said. “They tested everything that they’ve always tested, they tested at the same rigor that they always test. Because we were only in school 78 and 80 days, our children were behind that’s to be expected.”
Plans have already been enacted to help students during the new school year.
“As you are aware, we’ve put lots more boots on the ground this year because of the unprecedented amount of money that we have from the federal government related to COVID relief,” Bond said. “We have lots more interventionist than we’ve ever had, we have lots more instructional aides than we’ve ever had. You’ve had a large hand in hiring five additional curricular instructions assistant principals throughout the county, which will go a long way in approving these numbers.”
Bond said the assistant principals will be evaluating and assisting teachers throughout the year.
“We all know that virtual school was not a tremendous way to educate our students last year, it just wasn’t,” said Bond.
There were 400 students still enrolled in virtual learning during the assessment testing.
“I went and saw the superintendent when these numbers came out and said, ‘listen, I’m sick about this. I’m not shocked about this, but I’m sick about it,’” Bond said.
Mason County’s test scores were going up, Bond said.
“We had gone up three of the previous four years prior to the pandemic and then this came around,” Bond said. “I look for these numbers to rebound and rebound quickly.”
Bond said with the added positions, resources and in-person learning he is hopeful for the students.
Burdette agreed that Mason County Schools are headed in the right direction.
Sixth grade students did score higher than the state average in mathematics and English.
“Everyone is trying really, really hard through some still challenging circumstances that are out there,” Burdette said.
Enrollment numbers are up in the county this year. In October of 2020, there were 3,821 students enrolled. This year there are 3,944 students enrolled, that number will likely increase with preschool, Burdette said.
“The numbers do appear to be up, which sometimes explains why we might’ve had a bus overcrowded,” Burdette said. “We had to back up and reconfigure how to do this because we didn’t know we were going to have this many students. We’re making those adjustments as we should always do on the fly.”
Burdette said there are still around 20 professional positions still open around the county.
The meeting ended with an executive session to discuss the superintendent’s goals for the year.
In attendance were board members Dale Shobe, Meagan Bonecutter, Cossin, Rhonda Tennant and Superintendent Burdette. Board member Jared Billings joined via phone.
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Brittany Hively is a staff reporter at Ohio Valley Publishing.