Harman School students, officials make presentation to BOE

The Inter-Mountain photo by Brooke Binns Students from Harman School tell members of the Randolph County Board of Education what they love most about their school Tuesday. From left are Abigail White, Esme Estep, Noah Eddings, Coleman Estep, Aaron Estep and Annabelle Estep.

ELKINS — School officials and students from around Randolph County highlighted unique programs and special projects completed at their schools.

Several Local School Improvement Councils from schools in Randolph County offered presentations to the board of education Tuesday focusing on highlights from throughout the school year, progress that has been made and places they could see improvement.

Harman School principal Laura Hawkins, first-year principal at Harman, said she believes Harman is Randolph County’s best-kept secret.

“I couldn’t do this job if I didn’t have the support of this staff, these students, these parents and this awesome community,” she said.

Hawkins was assisted in her presentation by a group of students from Harman who told board members what they love most about their school. Among the students’ favorite things were art class, friendships, gymnasium size and food quality.

Although enrollment at Harman was at a low in 2015, Hawkins said that since the school has completed several projects, enrollment has been rising, according to Zoom West Virginia, a source of the West Virginia Department of Education.

“You can see the trend — that’s 2010, this is enrollment, and you can see it was gradually declining,” she said. “In 2015 it was at its lowest when the roof collapsed. I know a lot of kids made the switch to Elkins, and some of the kids that were in the area where they could have stayed at Harman decided to go to Elkins. From 2015 on, if you look at the trend, we’re up, up, up, so for 2017-18 it says 166, but actually right now we’re at 169 — so, I hope that keeps climbing.”

Hawkins went on to say the school has seen improvements to its interior and exterior, including fresh paint on the inside walls, re-finished hardwood floors and roof repairs.

“We have a new fence. The Harman Alumni Association gave us a fence and installed it to block off the wooded area behind the playground,” she said.

However, Hawkins noted areas that could see improvement include the bus parking area, the entrance going directly into the gymnasium and the eaves.

In the future, the school will also see additions to its playground thanks to community member Linda Teter, who applied for a grant from the Snowshoe Foundation.

“Linda Teter wrote a grant and acquired some money from the Snowshoe Foundation. We don’t have a good swing set, so we were talking about possibly putting a nice swing set there and some other playground equipment,” Hawkins said.

“We used some of the old chalkboards that were obsolete on the outside playground to give the kids something extra to do — rather than throwing them away,” she also noted.

North Elementary School principal Cindy Bodkin touched on several programs and activities which encourage student success.

One program North School utilizes to encourage students is “At an Arm’s Length.”

“We took the top 30 at-risk kids and each staff member – including cooks and custodians – has a student that they check on just to say ‘Hey, how are you doing? Do you have your homework? How was your spelling test?'” Bodkin said. “It’s just someone that they wouldn’t meet on a regular basis during their day but it’s someone who has their back.”

The school has also invited “heroes” to have lunch with children. Some of these individuals include veterans and first responders, such as law enforcement officers, fire fighters and EMS officials.

She noted Harman students benefit from after school tutoring, math nights and the AmeriCorps members who serve the school.

“We do a math night because the biggest thing that we hear is ‘I can’t help them with math,'” Bodkin said. “So, our parents come to math night and our teachers do a lesson and teach them the vocabulary that they’re going to hear. … While they’re doing that, our special teachers are in the gym and they do a math walk to win math manipulatives that they can take home with them.”

Bodkin noted one area of the school which could use improvement is the restroom areas.