Hancock schools reopen Monday under new county mask mandate

by Geoff Fox

As students at Hancock Middle-Senior High School head back to class, they’ll meet 10 new teachers this year. In the front (left to right), Danielle Kieser, Tina Martinez, Danielle Kimball, and Ann Shilling. In the back (left to right), Robin Hirshorn, Laura McAleer, Brittny McDonald, Alyssa Cotton, and Grace Shockey.

Students in Hancock and Washington County will be heading back to school on Monday, August 30.

Masks will be mandated per Washington County Board of Education.

Hancock Middle-Senior High School Principal Amanda Mulledy said that school will be holding a Meet the Teacher evening on Wednesday, September 8, at 6 p.m. where parents are welcome to meet their students’ teachers and staff.

In a video announcement, Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael said the school year would start with students and staff wearing masks while inside school buildings. This would continue as along as Washington County is in the “high transmission” category for COVID-19 cases.

“Let me be clear: my expectation is as soon as possible WCPS will return to giving students, families, and staff the choice to wear masks,” Michael said.

Hancock Middle-Senior High School will continue to follow all guidelines to protect the health and well-being of students and staff, Mulledy said.

“Students will be distanced as much as possible in the classroom and during lunch,” she said.

Cleaning and disinfecting will also continue to occur every day and masks will continue to be available for students.

Over the last 18 months, students in Hancock were taught via distance learning and in person, with those schedules fluctuating with the COVID cases.

For the 2021-2022 school year, there will be a different avenue available for students who are staying home to do school work via computer.

Mulledy said in place of distance learning, WCPS created the Academy of Blended Learning Education (ABLE) to meet the needs of students wishing to attend virtually.

Right now, there is a waiting list for that program and more information can be provided to parents by contacting the school, she added.

New faces in Hancock halls

Students going back to Hancock Middle-Senior High School will be seeing a host of new faces within the walls of the school come August 30.

Mulledy said there are 10 new staff members for the coming school year – Danielle Kimball and Grace Shockey in the English department;  Robin Hirshorn in the Science department; Laura McAleer, Alyssa Cotton, and Tina Martinez in the Social Studies department;  Ann Shilling as the new Library Media Specialist; Danielle Kieser in Spanish; Brittny McDonald as the new Lead Teacher; and Kendra Mumma as the new Registrar and Attendance Secretary.

“We are excited to welcome them to our Panther family,” Mulledy said.

Midway through the 2020-2021 school year, WCPS put the future of Hancock Middle-Senior in limbo as they looked to close the high school and consolidate it with Clear Spring High School.

After a letter writing campaign, meetings, sign displays, protests, and letting board officials know their feelings at a public hearing, the Washington County Board of Education voted to keep the school open.

As they move forward to the new school year, Mulledy noted last year brought many obstacles.

“Several of those are behind us,” she said, “allowing us to start the school year energized and ready to help students succeed in all they do.”

She said they are looking forward to celebrating the students and community as the doors to the school are opened August 30.

“I am extremely excited to begin the 2021-2022 school year in person,” she added.

Mulledy said she is looking forward to continuing to build on the success of the last few years and make this school year the best one possible with “a lot of growth” in the students and staff, as well as having some exciting things planned for the year.

“I can’t wait to see how our students and staff make 2021-2022 the best year ever for HMSHS Panthers!” Mulledy said.

“I am grateful for the students, staff, parents, and community of HMSHS and am excited to help make great things happen here.”

Elementary staff ready

In a newsletter to students, Hancock Elementary Principal Jennifer Scarberry Price said this past summer has seen staff getting the school building and grounds in good shape for the start of classes.

“Teachers have also been working hard, participating in Professional Development opportunities before students begin. These trainings will assist teachers with maximizing instructional time with best practices in teaching and learning,” Scarberry-Price said.

“I am excited to begin the school year with all staff and students in the building (face-to-face)! Our goal this year is provide as much normalcy as possible to school life for our kiddos.

“While the future is unpredictable, we are committed to adjusting, enhancing, and accelerating learning for the success of all students this year,” Scarberry-Price told families.

Elementary Teacher Nights

Hancock Elementary’s Meet the Teacher nights are set for this week. Sessions for students in K- 2nd grade will be held tonight, Wednesday, August 25 at 6 p.m. Students in grades 3-5 can meet their teachers on Thursday, August 26 at 6 p.m.