By Derek Tyson, The Independent Herald

PINEVILLE, WV – The Wyoming County Board of Education met Tuesday morning via conference call to consider the budget for the upcoming school year as well as a plans of action during these trying times.

Up for consideration was the 2020 – 2021 School Year Budget. Kim Cook, Chief School Business Official, explained that there was a decrease for the upcoming school year.

“A lot of this is due to federal funds, but they’re starting to come down a little bit,” said Cook. “I do want to caution, really with COVID, we do not know what the budget is going to look like next year.”

Cook continued to stress caution in the case of another episode of the coronavirus, or State Revenues requiring a cut to education spending.

“It is a protected line item, but if it got to that point, we would need to make adjustments,” said Cook. “At times in the past, we’ve had from 1 to 3 percent cut, quite a bit for a budget.”

Superintendent Deirdre Cline said that she and Cook had worked in tandem to maintain the solid financial base during the pandemic.

“It has taken tremendous teamwork, tremendous thought and energy,” said Cline. “We don’t take that solid standing for granted. To be able to present a budget where we’re coming out of a year like we’ve had, we are not in deficit, not even close and not on any state watchlist for budget issues, I feel really grateful for that.”

Cline insisted to the Board that any huge projects would be postponed until the world is a little more certain.

The Board approved the budget, which will next be sent to the State Department of Education.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Director of Student Services and Attendance John Henry gave an update on Wyoming County Schools’ COVID-19 Plan of Action.

“Since we last spoke, we’ve identified two additional positive cases of COVID-19 in Wyoming County,” said Henry. “Both of those cases being in an assisted living environment, were part of identification through the Governor’s order to test assisted living populations.”

Henry spoke of Mullens Manor recent social media posts reporting that a staff member at the Pineville facility as well as a resident at Mullens Manor tested positive for COVID-19.

Henry also had recently met with Director Fred Cox and other staff at the Wyoming County Health Department.

“I feel like they were cautiously optimistic,” said Henry. “They continue to encourage us to practice social distancing, hand washing. One suggestion they made is that on Wednesdays, to make sure people are wearing masks. Anyone serving the public is encouraged to wear their masks.”

Another request from the Health Department was that Henry and Superintendent Cline meet with them at least twice a month as the situation continues to unfold.

Henry had also participated in a countywide Zoom meeting facilitated by Dean Meadows, Director of Wyoming County OES/911.

“The nursing home was there, assisted living, fire departments, the Sheriff’s Department,” said Henry, also stating that the Mayors of Mullens and Pineville were represented. “We had a very open conversation about where we are in Wyoming County and that’s expected to continue to take place.”

During Superintendent Cline’s report to the Board, she was happy to report that the Central Office had returned to normal work hours and scheduling in all regards. Anyone wishing to visit the office will be asked to wear a mask at this time.

“We will don our masks and ask them to wear one as well,” said Cline. “Mr. Henry is going to ensure we have enough for the public if they don’t have their own.”

The summer feeding program will begin on June 10th. While bus delivery will not continue through the summer months, Cline said a van at both Wyoming East and Westside High Schools will be present to deliver meals to children verified to have zero transportation.

Students will continue to receive 5 breakfasts and 5 lunches from local pick up at each High School.

“So far we have 574 children registered for the summer feeding program,” said Cline.

Re-entry for the upcoming school year was also discussed during the Superintendent’s Report.

“We have not received hard guidance from the State or the Health Department at this point for re-entry next Fall,” said Cline.

According to Cline, the State has created a Re-entry Task Force to look at a lot of different possibilities and eventually provide a framework for the county level.

“Here in Wyoming County, we have started our own Re-Entry Task Force, with each principal, one teacher of the principal’s selection and each Faculty Senate President,” said Cline.

The Task Force will meet collectively, as well as break into smaller focus groups divided by grades; Pre-K through 4, 5 through 8, and 9 -12.

“It’s awfully early, but I know people want to know,” said Cline. “We all crave predictability right now but it’s just too soon to know for sure what to recommend to the Board.”

Superintendent Cline’s charge to the Re-Entry task force involves planning for three scenarios: 1. If school doesn’t reopen. 2. If there is a partial or flexible reopening. 3. If school reopens back to full force.

“Lots of questions and details to still be determined,” said Cline.

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