Students moved due to heat issue

BELINGTON – Belington Elementary School students in third, fourth and fifth grade were moved temporarily to Belington Middle School Thursday because of a heating issue, school officials said.

Barbour County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Super and Assistant Superintendent Jeff Kittle offered little information beyond those basic facts, but concerned parents raised questions Thursday about how the decision to move the students was made.

When contacted by The Inter-Mountain Thursday, Kittle said there was nothing more he could say on the matter because Super – whom Kittle said was away at a meeting – is the only administration member who speaks with media representatives.

“He’s really the only one authorized to be able to talk to press,” Kittle said.

Contacted on his cell phone Thursday, Super told The Inter-Mountain he was busy at a meeting in Bridgeport. He said he could not spare time to speak about the situation until today.

Parents of students who attend BES, however, were willing to share their thoughts about what they perceive as a lack of communication from school system administrators.

“We were not informed until Tuesday evening they would be moving them,” Kelli Thomason, the mother of a BES student, said Thursday. “There is nothing that can change what did happen – as upset as I am about the way things were handled. As long as we’re taking steps to improve – heaven forbid something should happen again – and fixing the communication issue.”

Thomason said it was her understanding that the affected students may have to remain at the middle school until as late as springtime, when the school’s furnace can be repaired.

Thursday was the first day back to school for Barbour County students after two weeks of closings due to frigid temperatures.

Missy Forsyth of Belington said she has three children who attend BES, and two of them were sent to the middle school Thursday. She said half of the elementary school building is without heat.

“If you’re standing in front of the school, the kids on the left side of the school have all been moved to the middle school because there is no heat on that side of the school,” Forsyth said.

Misty Suder, a BES parent, said she was still concerned by the Jan. 15 incident in which Belington Elementary was evacuated and then closed the following day due to a mysterious odor that some believed to be natural gas.

Super and Kittle both told The Inter-Mountain that – after careful inspections by the state Department of Education and gas company representatives – the building was cleared for students to return on Jan. 17.

“I’m upset because my daughter is in kindergarten and she is down there in the elementary school,” Forsyth said Thursday. “They are supposed to put in carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide detectors. I’m not leaving it until they do because those are my children in that school.”