Attendance has gone up in county schools, officials tell school board

by Kate Evans

Warm Springs Middle School Principal Jamie Harris gave a presentation on the middle school’s academic and climate goals and progress at the November 7 Morgan County School Board meeting.  The school has 437 students — 237 boys and 200 girls.

The school’s strategic plan goals are to increase the proficiency of students in English language arts and math by 10% during the 2023-2024 school year; improve chronic absenteeism by 10% by June 1; and improve school culture and climate so that by the end of the 2023-2024 school year 85% of staff and students will agree that the middle school is a supportive and inviting place for students to learn and for staff to work.


Harris said that discipline has greatly improved.  The total number of discipline referrals/incidents that occurred during the 2022-2023 school year was 1095, with 195 out of school suspensions.

So far in the 2023-2024 school year there has been 208 total discipline referrals/incidents with 26 out of school suspensions and 135 in-school suspensions.

Harris said the keys to success this school year include teacher Scott Wachter, who is overseeing in school suspensions, communication to parents by teachers and administrators and meetings of administrators, teachers and parents.

Harris said that attendance for the 2023-2024 school year so far has averaged 94.62%.  October 5 was their best attendance with 95.69% of middle school students in school that day.

The percentage of chronically absent students so far for the 2023-2024 school year is 13.27%.

Some 164 students had perfect attendance for the first nine weeks, Harris said. The school is using motivation and different incentives to encourage students to attend school.

Addressing deficiencies

Harris said that strategies to address deficiencies included identifying specific deficiencies in math and English language arts, creating a supportive environment, time management and organization, regular review and practice, monitoring progress, involving parents and maintaining a positive attitude.

Other strategies are support classes focused on IXL and IMA (Interim Module Assessments), consistent meetings with English language arts and math, CSOs (Content Standards and Objectives) and pacing guides, daily attendance calls, Capturing Kids Hearts to build culture and climate and staff Good Things.

Clubs, trips

 Harris said the Mountain Bike Club rides around campus.  The bikes and helmets were received through a grant.  Kids are enjoying learning to ride bikes. They’re looking at beginning an after-school racing club.

They start 0 period at 7:16 a.m. which is 16 minutes of walking and talking or kicking around a football or soccer balls. It’s physical activity, fresh air and getting the blood going, Harris said. If the weather is bad, they’ll do it indoors.

The school also has club day every two weeks which includes cornhole, crochet and riding bikes.

Students have had career exploration trips, visited the Air National Guard and were part of the Argos Manufacturing video contest. Some 25 students competed in the Explore Manufacturing and STEM competition at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College.


Morgan County Schools Assistant Superintendent Jeromy Duelley presented the attendance data from the first nine weeks of the 2023-2024 school year at the meeting.  Schools have reported the percentage of students that are chronically absent has dropped, and attendance has gone up.

During the first quarter of the school year, Morgan County Schools had 16.08% chronically absent students as opposed to 31.55% during the first quarter of the 2022-2023 school year, Duelley said.

The percentage of chronically absent students in each school in the first nine weeks ranged from 8.13% at Pleasant View Elementary and 11.90% at Widmyer Elementary to 14.81% at Warm Springs Middle School, 18.75% at Paw Paw Elementary and 18.78% at Berkeley Springs High School.

In the 2022-2023 school year during the first nine weeks the percentage of chronically absent students ranged from 21.05% at Paw Paw High School and 23.22% at Warm Springs Intermediate School to 34.52% at Widmyer Elementary and 37.52% at Berkeley Springs High School.

County schools had a total of 373 three-day contacts, 107 five-day letters, four multi-disciplinary team meetings and no home visits regarding attendance in the first quarter, Duelley said.

Morgan County Schools had a total of 542 students with perfect attendance during the first quarter, 733 students with outstanding attendance (missing only 1/2 day-2 absences) and 387 students with faithful attendance (2.5-4.5 absences)  Duelley said he was very proud to present the attendance data.


The school board conducted a first reading of the following policies.  The policies will be posted online for 30 days for public comment.

The policies under consideration are Group Health Plans 1619, 3419 and 4419, Program of Study Early and Elementary Learning Programs Grades Pre-K to 5, Privacy Protections of Self-Funded Group Health Plans 3419.01 and 4419.01, Privacy Protections of Fully Insured Group Health Plans 3419.02 and 4419.02, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 3419.03 and 4419.03, Personal Leave and Student Discipline.


The school board approved pay application #4 for $6,171.51 to Minghini’s General Contractors, Inc. for the Widmyer Elementary Safe School Entrance project as approved by Williamson Shriver Architects.

The board also approved travel for Superintendent Kristen Tuttle to attend the American Association of School Administrators National Convention on Education in San Diego California on February 13-17, 2024.