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School Re-Entry, CARES Act Funding Uses and More Discussed at Monday’s Board of Education Meeting

By Derek Tyson
The Welch News Editor

WELCH, W.Va. – The McDowell County Board of Education held their regular meeting Monday morning, July 6th, 2020, selecting a President and Vice President for the year as well as discussing CARES Act funding uses for McDowell County Schools.

One of the first items on the Board’s agenda was the election of President and Vice President of the Board of Education.

David Williams was reappointed as President of the Board while Georgia West was named Vice President. FACT CHECK THIS WITH CAROLYN OR WANDA!!

Superintendent of Schools Carolyn Falin gave an overview to the Board on Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Funding (ESERF).

Congress set aside approximately $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund). The Department will award these grants ­to State educational agencies (SEAs) for the purpose of providing local educational agencies (LEAs) with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the Nation.
“This is to address schools impacted by COVID-19 and to better prepare schools for remote learning, if we ever have to go full remote learning again,” said Falin.

Plans for using the emergency funds included:

  • Online learning, purchasing technology, including chromebooks for grades 3-12 and chrome tablets for grades k-2.
  • Additional staffing. “We feel we may need to employ one special needs teacher at one of our schools and also two additional nurses to have a nurse at every school, someone take care for kids and staff that get sick and follow proper COVID protocol,” said Falin.
  • A Learning Management System called Schoology. “It’s a one stop shop for parents and students to log in and all their files would be in that one portal. They don’t have to log into separate apps for each subject, it would all be underneath that one login to make it simpler for families,” said Falin.
  • Trainings for being prepared to respond to COVID-19 and training on minimizing the spread of infectious disease and sanitation.

Georgia West asked about temperature checks for students upon school entry each day.

“We have a task force that will begin meeting Friday to iron out these details. One of the recommendations is to do an initial temperature check and then as kids come in, there will be verbal checks with teachers,” said Falin. “To do a temperature check every single day is almost impossible, but there will be a verbal checklist to go down.”

Another goal was continuing to educate families about when a child is too sick to attend school, but with the right technology in place, students may still be able to attend class from the comfort of their homes.

“Blended learning will also begin to take place, if it’s an early release or a day at home during the week so that they can continue instruction even when they’re absent for whatever reason,” said Falin.

Later in the meeting, the board approved the purchase of Chromebooks and Chrome Tablets for MCS Students.

“If we can get this worked out really well, if it’s not COVID related and they just don’t feel well, they can still join class and not be counted absent,” said Falin. “Even on snow days, we can have students still participate whether they’re there or not.”

Falin commended Central Office staff for their hard work to secure funding for the school system.

Georgia West also asked about class sizes, specifically would there be enough room for large classes while maintaining social distancing.

“We’ve talked about how to spread them out, on the high school level we’ve discussed swapping rooms to accommodate larger classes, we could also use the gym and cafeteria,” said Falin.

With Friday, July 10th being the first meeting for the School Re-Entry Task Force, Falin hoped to have more details ironed out.