By Bobby Bordelon
Although stakeholder meetings around the reopening of Greenbrier County schools are still in progress, the Board of Education has already begun to take action to improve staffing in order to be better prepared for the 2020-2021 school year.
The board voted to create several positions, including an itinerant school nurse and 13 technology facilitators in order to better support both students returning to physical classes and remote learning students.
Lead School Nurse Paula McCoy will be provided with an additional set of hands when the itinerant nursing position is filled.
“We know that Paula is going to have extra duties this year,” said Associate Superintendent Doug Clemons. “She is willing to do whatever she can to help facilitate everything and she’s asked us to go ahead and add [an itinerant school nurse] for this year. … [The nurse would work] wherever they’re needed. She doesn’t know on a daily basis where they’re going to be needed.”
Help is also coming for remote learners – before summer began, Greenbrier County students were working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the increased need for support, the new technology facilitator positions will go a long way to fill that gap.
“Students, prior to the start of this school year, have been on remote learning,” explained Superintendent Jeff Bryant. “We have, in preparedness, for students and parents who may select to do an online instructional path through Greenbrier County Public Schools, for next year [created these positions]. We felt like our teachers need more support, we need students to [have] more support and parents to have more support from the school as applicable to online instruction.”
The new positions will be created for Alderson Elementary, Crichton Elementary, Eastern Greenbrier Middle School, Frankford Elementary, Greenbrier East High School, Greenbrier West High School, Lewisburg Elementary, Rainelle Elementary, Ronceverte Elementary, Rupert Elementary, Smoot Elementary, Western Greenbrier Middle School, and White Sulphur Springs Elementary.
Plans for potential reopening have not been finalized; stakeholder meetings with the board and Bryant continue through this week.
“We’ve been in meetings from morning to late afternoon everyday,” Bryant said
Although not specifically informed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the board also approved the creation of a music program coordinator position. Although likely an “extra duty contract,” rather than a full-time job, the goal is to improve communication between the music departments across the entire county.
“I met with the band directors last week, in the western and eastern end, and we talked about all the things surrounding summer band, band,” explained Bryant. “Yesterday I met with all the general music teachers and choral teachers. We had some really good discussions, but the request from them was … they felt like they needed someone to serve as the lead teacher, because there’s quite a number of them and basically put together agendas on professional development and connect the music teachers. … Most likely I’m going to take up the responsibility of working with the music teachers. They didn’t seem to protest that.”
The board approved a COVID-19 resolution at the request of the West Virginia Educational Association (WVEA), calling for direct government action on assisting the education system during the upcoming school year.
“The Greenbrier County Board of Education supports the passage of legislation by the United States Congress appropriating at least $175 billion, to be distributed to states and local districts through an allocation formula based on poverty, to fill COVID-19 budget gaps that threaten students in schools and on campuses,” reads the resolution.
The resolution supports a number of policies, including:
• stabilizing education funding for students in our communities’ schools and campuses.
• “building bridges for educational opportunity” for students and stronger communities.
• supporting the safety, health, and well-being of students and educators.
• providing necessary supports for families, students, and community members, including for mental health and nutritional supports, training for loss and trauma related to the pandemic, investment in housing supports for households with school-aged children, expanding community-based health care
• the creation of emergency standards for frontline workers.
• Congressional action to cancel month federal student loan payments and interest accrual, including commercially held Federal Family Education Loans and Perkins Loans for the duration of the pandemic.
• plans for learning opportunities, such as modified school calendars, extended learning components, distance learning plans, and other options that comport with federal and state public health guidance.
• working with the West Virginia Education Association “to ensure that the interests of students, especially those most vulnerable, are represented in critical decision makings processes responding to the national health emergency.”
Bryant noted that “about a dozen” of other boards have approved the resolution. In addition, the resolution also does not commit any Greenbrier County funds or resources to these goals.
A number of school policies were approved to enter a 30 day comment period before coming back before the board for approval. This includes:
• Dual enrollment courses that qualify as graduation requirements
• Originally enacted in 2017, the policy allows students who meet certain requirements to enroll online. This policy could also be later informed by the board’s opening plan for the 2020-2021 school year.
• Several miscellaneous policies, such as student discipline, use of restraint and seclusion with students, complaints, crowdfunding, cash handling, video surveillance, accounting system for fixed assets, school safety, preparedness for toxic hazard and asbestos hazard, and more.
Current school policies can be found here – http://go.boarddocs.com/wv/greb/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=BPTP6H624E73