Parents protest combining classes proposal

Six Harman School parents spoke out Monday against the proposed combining of kindergarten and first grade for the 2013 – 2014 school year, but the most compelling speech came from one of the students who could be impacted by the change – a seventh grade student at the school.

“I am a brother of a special needs student that will be in the combined classroom,” Zachary Roy said during Monday’s Randolph County Board of Education meeting. “She needs love, time and commitment. Placing her in a classroom shared by both kindergarten and first grade students will take valuable education time away from everyone in the class, and especially from my sister.”

Roy, who said his sister has sensory processing disorder, said that smaller classrooms are beneficial to all special needs children.

Board members voted to table three items from their agenda during the Feb. 18 meeting. Interim Superintendent Terry George had recommended, as a budget-cutting measure, creating a kindergarten/first grade split class at Harman School. This proposed class, plus a kindergarten/first grade/second grade split at Valley Head Elementary School and a third grade/fourth grade/fifth grade split at Valley Head Elementary School, will be added to the agenda for the March 18 meeting.

Harman School parents Rebecca Bennett, Janessa Ray, Julie Ketterman,Vanessa Wolford, Christy Shifflett and Lisa Cogar also spoke against the proposed combining of classes, stating 21 students in the class would be too many, and that students and the teacher would have difficulty with the two levels. Several parents said it would be like their children would be receiving only half an education.

Board member Harvey Taylor and board president Lisa Wamsley both commended the concerned parents from Harman for coming and speaking with the board to share their feelings about the combined class.

  • Also during Monday’s meeting, assistant superintendent Pam Hewitt introduced Jennings Randolph Elementary School principal Rebecca Whiteman and Beverly Elementary School principal Paul Zickefoose, volunteer coordinators of the county Spelling Bee. Awards were presented to the winners, who will represent Randolph County at the regional Spelling Bee March 20.

Spelling Bee winners recognized were Abigail Hannan, grade 4 at Third Ward Elementary School; Katie Bolgar, grade 5 at Third Ward Elementary School; Caitlin Goode, grade 6 at Tygarts Valley Middle School; George Triplett, grade 7 Elkins Middle School; and Jacob Earle, grade 8 Elkins Middle School.

  • George announced that he and Wamsley will travel to Charleston March 19 for a presentation with the School Building Authority. George said they will ask for funding for $3.8 million for renovations at Tygarts Valley Middle School.
  • Jonathan Paine, technology director, updated the board about high speed internet service to rural schools.

“High speed internet was installed in Coalton and Harman Friday and will be completed today in Pickens,” Paine said. “Valley Head will have high speed internet by the end of May.”

Paine also said the student to computer and teacher to computer ratios are all within the West Virginia Department of Education ratios.

  • In other business, Kelli Carr, student representative from Elkins High School, updated board members about club activities at the school. Carr, a senior at EHS, is the daughter of Penny and Rich Carr. She is student body president and attended the 2012 Rhododendron Girl’s State, is a member of National Honor Society, and a member of school council and the varsity tennis team.

“There are 34 clubs at the school and each one is very active,” Carr said. “Clubs vary and include clubs where students cook, make items from duct tape and read silently. Some of the most active clubs include student council, Future Farmers of America, Key Club and Future Business Leaders of America.

“Student council had a fundraiser where we brought in pennies,” Carr said. “Teachers had to count the money and it because very competitive. We raised $1,600 for the American Heart Association. Another great event was the FFA week. Students had a dirtiest truck competition and (principal) Mr. (David) Fincham judged whose truck was dirtiest. It was really fun.”

A special board meeting is slated for 5:55 p.m. March 18, to set levy rates, followed at 6 p.m. by the regular board meeting at the central office.