Schools staying open despite rolling quarantines, COVID cases

by Kate Evans

School Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said last week the county is trying to provide a fairly normal school year amid the ongoing COVID pandemic.  The big issue is staffing, she said.  The county school system is still hiring substitutes, teachers and service personnel.  Everyone is pitching in and they haven’t had to close a school yet, Tuttle said.

There has been a small increase in COVID-19 cases in the schools, Tuttle said.  There were 22 students positive for COVID-19 across the school system and 172 students quarantined.

As of Monday, October 11, Tuttle said there were five Warm Springs Middle School students and four Berkeley Springs High School students positive for COVID-19 .  There was also one student positive for COVID at Widmyer Elementary, one student at positive at Pleasant View Elementary and one student positive at Warm Springs Intermediate School.  No students at Paw Paw Schools were positive for COVID-19.  One staff member was also positive for the virus.

Staff is trying to provide a quality education and parents are helping keep schools open, said Tuttle.

Pre-K goals

In other business, the Morgan County School Board adopted the following county-wide pre-kindergarten goals for the 2021-2022 school year:

1) By June 2022 they will increase the number of pre-K students at mastery in numerical operations;

2) By June 2022 they will increase the number of pre-K students at mastery in oral language areas such as story retelling, language manipulation and alphabetic awareness.

Morgan County Schools Elementary Education Director Kandy Pentoney discussed the different goals components at the meeting. She said that improving numerical operations in pre-K students was last year’s goal and that it had been a weakness for several years.

Storytelling was another area where they needed to build kids’ skills along with phonemic awareness-rhyme, rhythm and alliteration and naming letters of the alphabet.  Pentoney suggested singing the “Alphabet Song” every day with children.  These are all foundational goals and areas that they want to work on.

Pentoney shared Early Learning Reporting System end of the year data for the 2020-2021 school year that showed pre-K students at mastery or below mastery in  numbers and numerical operations, classification and algebraic thinking, geometric measurement, scientific inquiry, play, self-regulation, fine and gross motor skills, oral language, phonological awareness,

writing, print awareness, safety measures  and health development.

The majority of the students were at mastery in all areas, with each area and skill having generally two to five students below mastery.  Numerical operations, story retelling, alphabetic awareness and scientific inquiry had a few more students struggling with those skills.

Pentoney said the data came from 58 pre-K students last year. Some were distance learners. They generally have 120-130 pre-K students enrolled in the program and have 116 pre-kindergarten students enrolled this year.

Pentoney said she couldn’t say enough about small class sizes when kids are young.

School Lunch Week

Child Nutrition Director Angela Beddow talked about the fun meals and activities she was planning for National School Lunch Week.  Her theme this year was Wild About School Lunch and she was having prizes for students, nutritional education and fun facts for kids to learn. Beddow also brought a goodie basket for each board member.

School board president Aaron Close said he understood that breakfast and lunch participation

was going through the roof. Beddow said she was trying second lines and that she may do Grab and Go meals at Berkeley Springs High School instead of a second line.  They had done some yogurt bars and wings.

Board members

Board member Pete Gordon and Superintendent Tuttle both congratulated Warm Springs Intermediate School art teacher Anna Ruggiero for receiving the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Above and Beyond Award.

Gordon said Ruggiero has done amazing projects with her students-art murals in the intermediate school cafeteria and downtown and at the recycling center and is one of the great teachers in Morgan County Schools.

John Rowland said that the Berkeley Springs High School Athletic Hall of Fame was a very successful event.  There was excellent public speaking.  All of the graduates were very successful in their private lives and in business.