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Jefferson BOE discusses re-entry plan; approves bond call
July 17, 2020

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CHARLES TOWN - More than 160 individuals tuned in to the Jefferson County Board of Education meeting via Zoom Monday evening where discussion centered on the proposed re-entry plan for students this fall, as well as the content of the bond approved for the November general election ballot.

According to Superintendent Bondy Shay Gibson, the full plan for re-entry into school for the fall semester should be released to the public later this week.

In answering questions submitted by the public, Gibson explained that classes will take place both virtually and in-person, individually determined by each student's family. If one decides on using a virtual classroom, classes would be held each day and students would be in the virtual classroom with the teacher and be accountable for all work, testing and participation.

In the in-school option, students will remain in a fixed location, while teachers, including those who teach specialty subjects, will move to the students.

"There will be small pods with one teacher to better manage the pandemic," Gibson said. "The purpose of the plan is to limit exposure."

For students with unreliable internet, the school system has two available hot spots outside of the county's two high schools that can be expanded into the parking areas, so students can log in from their vehicles.

Gibson also stressed that the schedule for the school year is now in need of change, because of the governor's mandated start of school on Sept. 8. Students will still have to attend the required 180 days; however, the delay at the start of the year, without an equal extension of days at the end of the year, will require elimination of some holidays or other scheduled days off. One possible change, Gibson told board members, would be to take away part of the Thanksgiving holiday that currently stands at a full week, and reduce it to three days. Proposed changes will be put out for public review, and the board could be forced to call a meeting to vote on the calendar, depending upon when the state requires the finalized version to be submitted.

Board members also spent a significant portion of the meeting discussing the general election bond call. The board had previously decided against a special countywide election last December.

After significant discussion, the BOE voted to place the bond on the ballot, asking voters to approve a bond for $43,532,971, as well as approximately $200,000 additional dollars for cost of issuance.

New board member Donna Joy questioned the need for a new elementary school in Ranson at this time, when, she said, enrollment has decreased in that location. The new school is slated to receive just over $16,000,000 of the bond funds. Shepherdstown is also slated to receive a new elementary school.

Board member Mark Osbourn expressed concern over the bond, while Gary Kable moved for passage of the entire bond amount.

"I am concerned about running a bond in the current economic times," Osbourn said. "How many people in Jefferson County are not currently employed?"

"I believe people are supportive," Gibson told the board. "But I believe it will be hard to see in the ballot."

Despite concerns, the board approved the bond call. In addition, the levy will also be up for renewal on the ballot.

The BOE was advised that the graduation ceremonies scheduled for Aug. 1, for both Washington and Jefferson high school classes of 2020, have been indefinitely postponed due to the downsizing of allowable events by Gov. Jim Justice.

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