Upshur looking at extracurricular trips procedures

BUCKHANNON — A request to give Upshur County Schools’ bus drivers a chance at extracurricular trips again will be handled through new practices being developed and not by revising a policy.

Assistant superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison told the Upshur County Board of Education Tuesday that a committee had looked at Policy 9004 following an agreement at the recent meeting. A contingency of bus drivers approached the board of education over concerns that bus drivers were not being asked to take extracurricular trips because of a change in the policy the prior year when there was a shortage of bus drivers. Although the shortage had been alleviated, parents were still being asked to transport their children to games and other events.

“Once we got together as a group to look at the policy, we decided it wasn’t the policy that needed to be revised,” Harrison said. “We needed to set up a standard set of practices that everyone understood and was able to follow. It was an outstanding meeting. Everybody cooperated very effectively together. We did develop that list of practices.”

Athletic directors will provide schedules to director of transportation Randy Hardman, superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus and Harrison which will identify trips to be self-transport, note that planned trips are subject change and allow for drivers to accept runs and plan for any substitutes as necessary.

“Early and continual communication will prevail to allow all parties to be factually informed,” the practices state.

All parties will follow the chain of command when concerns arise and Hardman, or his designees, will be the contact person to work with athletic directors and central office administrators.

If there are unforeseen interferences which might delay a driver from arriving on time for an extracurricular assignments, it is to be reported to Hardman or his designee who will then contact the athletic director.

Bus drivers are to report driving times for regular runs accurately when taking extracurricular assignments.

Finally, the practices will be revisited if needed to insure that communication is effective and transparency prevails as students are transported to and from events.

Stankus said, “Of course we understand that in all of this that everything is subject to the availability of drivers. Really, the whole intent of developing this kind of practices is just to improve communication.”

Curriculum director Tim Derico presented another update on the 2019-2020 school calendar. The board will have it on the agenda at the next meeting to be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School for possible approval.

“The prep day on Aug. 13 would move to Aug. 12,” he said. “Then we would have a professional learning day on Aug. 13 for the transition of pre-K, kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade. Basically, we would have a full school day with our staff in the building but only those students. The professional learning day would allow us to do that without reducing the 180-day requirement. Then we would start school on Aug. 14 just list the other counties.”

Board president Dr. Tammy Samples said, “We have done that in the past, but we haven’t done it for a few years. What is the idea behind doing that?”

Superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus said, “When we were meeting with stakeholder groups, parents, faculty senate chairs, LSIC, teachers, bus drivers, we asked them a series of the same questions. This came out of those group meetings that they would like that day brought back where we had kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade come back.”

Derico also proposed that the Friday of the Strawberry Festival, May 15, be a Continuing Education Day.

“Any employee who has their 18 hours of staff development – with six of those hours being outside of their work time would have that day as release time. Students would not attend school and it would only be for those staff who do not meet the requirement of 18 hours. Typically by that point in the school year, everybody is in pretty good shape.”

Derico said the only other way to handle Strawberry Festival Friday would be to have a Parent-Teacher Conference Day and put the CE Day at the end of the year.

Spring Break is still 2 ¢ days reduced over this current year due to the state assessment next year, the SAT, being on April 7.

Derico said, “We had the choice of using an alternate date, but the data would not have been available to us in the same manner that it would be on April 7.”

The curriculum director noted that this year the school system had been fortunate in having only missed three days due to weather. Those days have been made up through accrued time and no changes in the calendar have been required to this point.

“We are still in really good shape for the time of year we are in,” he said.

In other news:

∫ Stankus reported that the Math For Life team is developing a county-wide program for improving schools’ approach to mathematics.

∫ The school system has also signed up for the Home Grown program with Glenville State.

“We are identifying our own students at the high school who are interested in becoming teachers,” Stankus said. “We believe this is a very good time to do this program because of the teacher shortage. They will receive a full scholarship through Glenville State College. They will complete two years of college during their high school experience and go two more years to Glenville for a full ride. The students will then return to their home town to teach and have a mentor.”

∫ Jody Johnson, director of special programs, presented the home school update for the school year.

There are 21 new elementary, 24 new middle and 28 new high school enrollees to bring the total enrollment to 76 elementary, 75 middle and 111 high school home school students as of Jan. 17, 2019. There are 262 students total enrolled in the home school.