Hardy County Students Return to In-Person Instruction

Following a discussion with Hardy County Health Department Administrator William Ours, the Hardy County Board of Education voted unanimously to open schools for in-person instruction, five days a week, beginning Monday, Feb. 22.

The board met on Monday, Feb. 15.

“Things are really looking well in Hardy County,” Ours said. “But we need to continue to do the things that got us here. We really need to push wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands. I’m all in favor of getting kids back in school five-days a week.”

While Ours expressed concern about the different variants of the corona virus, he said there was no reason students couldn’t return to school.

“There’s an outbreak of a variant in Jackson County,” Ours said. “It seems to be more contagious and they have 400 kids in quarantine there. I don’t mean to scare you, but I want to make you aware of what’s going on in other parts of the state.”

Ours asked if school nurses could assist the Health Department with contact tracing of those people associated with positive test results in the school. “We’ll handle the positive cases, if the school nurses could handle the contacts,” he said.

Hardy County Schools Superintendent Sheena VanMeter said nurses could certainly assist with contact tracing.

Board member Jesse Halpern-Robinson asked if the school nurses could be given a script to be used when contacting people potentially exposed to COVID-19.

“If the nurses and the health department staff had a script, they would be sure to provide a consistent message,” he said. “If they could also have a list of frequently asked questions, they could provide consistent information for people with questions.”

Both Ours and VanMeter said a script does not exist, but it is a good idea. 
Halpern-Robinson also asked if students older than 16 registered for the vaccine, would that be done outside of school.

“That’s a ways down the road,” Ours said. “When that time comes, we’d be happy to come into the schools to vaccinate everyone.”

Board member Nancy Hahn said she was glad to hear the recommendation that students could go back to school five days a week for in-person instruction. “I think this is really good news,” she said.

Unaware that Ours would recommend a return to school, Eric Morris, a community member and parent, spoke to the board in favor of resuming in-person instruction. 

“Federal guidelines, including the CDC, have said it’s okay for students to return to in-person instruction and I believe it is time,” he said. 

The board discussed making the community aware of the Monday, Feb. 22 date and what measures will be required.

“We will require masks and social distancing, but all of those measures were in place,” VanMeter said. “Students will dismiss after 1 p.m. and the buildings will be thoroughly cleaned every day.”

Budget Update

Finance Director Sarah Earle presented a budget update to the board. 
“Everything is still within expectations,” she said. “Substitutes and long-term substitutes was over budgeted, but that’s because we haven’t needed them.”

Earle said there is $1.3 million in reserve and $499,000 to be transferred to food service. 

As the board considers paying off two bank loans taken to purchase the property adjacent to Moorefield High School and provide matching funds for the East Hardy Early Middle School HVAC and roof replacement project, Earle presented pay-off amounts.

“The Pendleton Community Bank loan pay-off amount is $351,728,” she said. “The RDA/Capon Valley Bank loan is $223,433. If we paid off both loans today, we would save approximately $57,000 over the life of the loans.”

The board has discussed paying the loans while the system has a surplus, saving both interest and loan payments going forward. 

Earle advised waiting until the legislature finalizes the state budget to make sure there are no cuts to state education funding. The legislature began the 2021 Session last week. 

“I think we should wait and see how things shake out,” VanMeter said.
Board President Melvin Shook said he recommends keeping the item on the agenda for discussion next month.

Pilgrims Rec Center

VanMeter presented photographs of the proposed location of the Pilgrims Rec Center. It was recommended the building be placed adjacent to Moorefield Elementary School. Questions arose at the last meeting regarding parking and bathroom use.

The photographs showed the northern bus loop adjacent to the MES playground. “There is parking available in the bus loop and across the street at the high school,” VanMeter said. 

“The bathroom area is big enough for two bathrooms. There will be a male and female instead of just one.”

VanMeter said the walking track will not be impacted. “The walking track is around the outside of the area,” she said.

School Calendar

Facilities Director Steven Williams hosted the second of two required public hearings regarding the school calendar for the 2021-2022 school year. 
The state requires 180 days of instruction, within a 48-week timeframe.

Because Hardy, Grant and Pendleton counties participate in the South Branch Career and Technical Center, the three school calendars are virtually identical. 

There are a total of 20 non-instructional days built into the calendar. They include seven holidays, Election Day, six out-of-calendar days, two preparation days, two parent/teacher conference days and three curriculum development days.

“We have 30 minutes added to every school day,” Williams said. “We can use that accrued time for late arrivals and early dismissals. We can also use it for up to five full days. 

“While the board has the authority to make changes in the school calendar, they need to have prior approval by the West Virginia Department of Education.”

Currently, a survey is available on the Hardy County Schools website regarding the school calendar. It is available through Wednesday, Feb. 24. 
“Once the survey is tabulated on Feb. 25, we will create a proposed calendar and submit it for approval,” Williams said. 

Other Business

•The board approved the Remote Wok Policy GBQA.
•The board approved Local COVID-19 Leave Policy GBRAB.
•The board discussed using Step 7b funds to add a safety window at Moorefield Middle and East Hardy Early Middle schools. The safety window would allow exit in case of an emergency.
•The board discussed the West Virginia Board of Education waiver of the 2.0 grade point average requirement to participate in sports. The waiver is in effect until March 19 and cannot be overridden by local Boards of Education.
•The next meeting of the Hardy County Board of Education will be held on Monday, March 1 beginning at 5 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Central Office, 510 Ashby St. in Moorefield. The public is invited to attend. Virtual options are available for individuals who wish to participate remotely.