by KATE EVANS
Morgan County School seniors ended one of the most historic school years in memory without the usual pomp and celebration. Their proms, senior trips, senior athletic competitions and shows were cancelled by school closures, and traditional graduations delayed. Among the other losses, local seniors also won’t be able to spend the money they raised for their senior trip and other special events.
Paw Paw parent Holly Abrell said she was told recently that her daughter and fellow graduated Pirates won’t have latitude to use their funds for anything for themselves this year.
“They can’t spend any,” Abrell said.
Even a plan to hold an alternative version of a prom in the community for the seniors can’t be paid for by the senior funds, school rules say.
School buildings are closed to public events and have been since March due to state mandates.
Morgan County Schools Treasurer Ann Bell discussed guidelines for the use of unspent class funds raised by both Paw Paw High School and Berkeley Springs High School for graduation, senior trips and senior proms.
Both senior classes were unable to have their end of senior year activities and traditional graduations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fourteen seniors from Paw Paw Hugh School have a total balance of $3,279.57 that they raised this year for those events. Berkeley Springs High School senior class raised $2,709.17 for their senior year activities.
Bell said that some of the funds each class raised could be put toward graduation expenses such as renting a stage, tent or a sound system if graduation ceremonies do occur. However, the monies can’t be spent on food or beverages for the events or for personal gifts for the students.
Graduation ceremonies for both high schools are still tentatively set for next week, Thursday, July 30 and Friday, July 31.
The hope was that students would eventually have a graduation and prom and could use the monies then, Bell said. The senior advisors have been involved with the students and parents of both high school senior classes to decide what to do with the money they raised.
State code requirements
Bell shared the State Code regarding the use of any senior class funds remaining in a class account after a class graduates.
Three options are given in code for dealing with the remaining account balance for a particular class of students when that class is no longer at the school if the money is held in a sub-account in the general fund:
1) The monies are transferred to a sub-account in the school’s general fund for use in the general operations of the school.
2) The monies are transferred to a sub-account in the school’s general fund for a specific purpose such as a public improvement to the school.
3) The monies are transferred to a sub-account for a subsequent class of students, like next year’s seniors.
The code stresses that “under no circumstances should the monies in a sub-account of the general fund be transferred to an entity or bank account outside of the school’s general fund.”
There is no movement at the state level to allow any other use of these student funds, Bell said.
The code also “specifies that separate, specific fundraisers with the intent declared ahead of time must be held for any funds being used for student recognition,” Bell noted.
WV Code 18-5-13 allows schools to spend funds for student, parent, teacher and community recognition programs using funds generated through a fundraiser or donation-soliciting activity.
Before beginning the activity, the school must publicize that the activity will be for this purpose and must designate the funds raised for this purpose. Any funds generated must be placed in a separate account in the general fund and not be mixed with other school funds.
The State Board of Education has one waiver regarding the use of funds for class trips. The waiver is only for grades five and eight as students move to a new school after the 2019-2020 school year.
The waiver allows funds raised for fifth and eighth grade school trips to either remain at the original school where they were raised to be used for the students later even though they’ll be at a different school. Or the funds can be moved from the school to the next school the class will be attending to be used for a school trip when it’s deemed safe.
Bell said that almost every year kids have a balance of money left in their class account and they have to decide what to do with it.
There’s no waiver for seniors that have graduated because there’s nowhere for the money to go once students have left school.
Kate Shunney contributed to this story.