The Times West Virginian

January 24, 2014

Winter conditions hot topic for BOE

‘It’s still not a very safe environment to bring students and our staff in’

By Chelsi Baker
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Cold temperatures and harsh winter weather conditions proved to be a hot topic at the Marion County Board of Education meeting Thursday.

The board reviewed photos from schools’ parking lots taken to assess safety conditions after the most recent snowstorm.

Maintenance workers have scraped each school’s lot, but the frigid temperatures make  it impossible to scrape down to the pavement. Ice and compacted snow increase the risk of falls and potential injuries.

“Despite the fact that our maintenance men have been out there working hard in the parking lots, it's still not a very safe environment to bring students and our staff in,” said Superintendent of Schools Gary Price.  

If more snow falls Saturday, maintenance workers will come out Sunday to try to keep up with clean-up and safety management.

Although Price commends the road workers on their efforts keeping up with winter weather, he is still fearful of conditions in areas farther out of town.

“There are always a lot of different considerations of why you do or do not decide to cancel school. In a lot of our outlying areas, there is not a wide enough path cleared for a school bus and a car to pass each other. It’s just a very unsafe situation, and when you have that much snow packed on the roads, you don’t have a place for kids to stand.”

The area may see more heavy snowfall over the weekend and into next week, bringing up concern about future school closings.

Marion County schools are allowed eight snow days.

Days missed so far will be made up on May 28-30 and June 2-5, which were previously designated as Outside School Environment days.

Any further days missed will not be made up, and teachers will need to condense their lesson plans to ensure all material is covered before the end of the school year, Price said.

June 5 will be the last day for students, and graduation day has been scheduled for May 23.

Since the last Continuing Education day was taken for a weather make-up day, school employees now only need 12 hours of development credit.

Looking forward, Price proposed to realign fourth-grade classes from Fairview Elementary School to Fairview Middle School, and to also realign preschool classes from Fairview Middle to Fairview Elementary.

When a preschool was added to the Fairview, there were no other public or private preschools to serve that area. The only space for the program was at Fairview Middle School, which was why preschool was run at that facility in the first place.

"We would like to realign the grades so that they more closely configure the students with similar ages," said Price. "We feel it would be advantageous to the preschool to be with the kindergarten and those other primary grades at the elementary school. It would make sense for the fourth grade, the oldest grade, to closely align with the middle school."

Melvyn Coleman, principal of Fairview Elementary, and Steve Rodriguez, principal of Fairview Middle School, both have been very receptive to the idea.

“Mr. Coleman would like to have the preschoolers in his building so he can start working with them so as they move on up into kindergarten and first grade he's familiar with them and they’re familiar with him and the teachers. Both principals feel it would be a good realignment, but we will give the public an opportunity to have their input,” Price said.

The board decided to hold a meeting that will be open for public input and questioning on the topic. Both principals will be present to assist with answers and provide their input, as well.

If approved, the board would like to make the realignment for the 2014-15 school year.

Also discussed in the meeting:

• Rooftop heating units have been replaced at Fairview Elementary School, and two more will be installed. The weather did not cause problems with the heating, and the new units warmed the building to 74 degrees while the students have been away, according to an electronic monitoring system.

• Instructors Paula Chrobak, Richard Henderson, Terry Mattern, Yvonne Pethtal, Connie Rush and Lois Schoolcraft will retire this school year. The board commends them on their years of service to Marion County’s students.

• The board passed Price’s recommendation that a bus driver be suspended two days without pay because his bus was “red-tagged” and taken out of service. A red tag consists of anything that can cause a bus not to be permitted to service students. The bus driver failed to fix the problems during the time period allotted to do so.

• The board approved a recommendation to expel a student for one calendar year for violating the Safe Schools Act.

Email Chelsi Baker at or follow her on Twitter @CBakerTWV.