Barbour BOE considers bomb dog

Members of the Barbour County Board of Education were given some options to consider during their regular meeting Monday regarding the possible addition of a bomb dog, providing after-school hunter education and a personal safety program for students in grade Pre-K to 2.

Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins addressed the recent bomb threats at Barbour County schools, including one on Jan. 18 that prompted the evacuation of all the county’s schools.

“With the recent bomb threats, I have been looking into the most effective ways to search schools and make sure it is clear for students to return,” Hawkins said. “The most effective way will be to use bomb dogs. There are none locally, and the closest is in Morgantown. The response time from Morgantown is usually a few hours. If we call dogs in from Charleston, the response time is three to four hours. If we want to get the students back into the schools quickly, it makes sense to have dogs locally.”

Hawkins said he has been in contact with two local groups.

“Kathy Holbert of Chiodo Kennels made a proposal for a one-time annual fee to obtain a bomb dog,” Hawkins said. “She would breed and train a dog and have it for us to use. There would be no additional fees other than the one-time annual fee. Kathy is certified.

“The second person is in the deputy reserves, and would charge hourly for her services,” Hawkins said. “One dog cannot effectively search for very long, so I would recommend getting two dogs. They would also be available for use by surrounding counties with a mutual agreement.”

Hawkins said, if approved, the goal would be to have the dogs trained and ready to go by the beginning of the next school year. He said he will be making the same proposal to the Barbour County Commission.

“We are at the mercy of those in Monongalia County and the Charleston State Police,” Hawkins said. “The FBI dogs in Clarksburg have never been available. Upshur has a firearms dog, but I was always told not to mix anything with a bomb dog.

“This year alone, we have had four bomb threats and we are only half-way through the year,” Hawkins said.

“Our goal is the safety of the kids and getting the students back into a safe school as soon as possible. A bomb canine is the best way to do that.”

Also during the meeting:

– Deputy Chad Kennedy of the Barbour County Sheriff’s Department told board members he is a certified instructor for the hunter’s safety course and asked to offer the program after school. He said he hopes to offer the class three times a year. Classes are two days long and each day is three hours.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Super asked if real guns would be used in the class.

“The Department of Natural Resources provides plastic resin guns that are replica fire arms,” Kennedy said. “There is no action to them at all.”

Super asked that paperwork suitable for a waiver from the state Board of Education be submitted for approval for the class.

– Local Education Agencies Title 1 Director Jack Reger and Mary McCartney, a parent representative for the Parent Educator Resource Center, addressed board members regarding a new personal safety program.

“The program helps students in grades pre-K through second to learn about good and bad touching,” Reger said. “Judy McCauley from Appalachian Community Health in Elkins is going to train Mary (McCartney) for the program. The Family Resource Network will purchase program supplies including puppets. The program also teaches car, traffic and fire safety. Each year builds on the previous year.”

McCartney said there are seven lessons, each lasting 30 minutes. Parents would need to complete a permission form for students to participate in the program.

Board President Robert Wilkins said that schedules were already complete and asked what the students would be giving up to add this program into the curriculum.

“The students have time and this would not interfere with their studies,” Reger said. “I think if the state came in and saw us using this curriculum, they would applaud it.”

“I think the key to this kind of education is it is not taking anything away, but helping support and reinforce our current curriculum,” Super said.

The next meeting of the Barbour County Board of Education is slated for 6 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Board of Education office.