FAIRMONT — Most teachers and staff are working above and beyond their usual commitments amid the pandemic, and Marion County Schools will compensate the teachers who do.

At the school board’s regularly scheduled meeting Monday night, the board voted to renew a policy that will offer an $800 stipend to any part-time or full-time employee under contract with the school district.

School Superintendent Donna Hage said the stipend is timely now, as teachers and staff are working harder than ever to keep up with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think this is particularly meaningful this year given everything [our personnel] are facing with COVID,” Hage said. “The number of students that are being quarantined, the extra prep that requires and really just all that our teachers have done and sacrificed.”

Due to staff quarantines and shortages of substitute teachers, teachers have given up their planning periods to cover classes that would otherwise be without a teacher. Many teachers are having to work extra hours just to prepare school work that will be sent home to their quarantined students.

According to Hage, since the start of this year, 123 teachers across the county have given up their planning period for compensation.

“I’m delighted we were able to continue with the stipend,” School Board President Mary Jo Thomas said. “The staff really needs this.”

Principal presentations

The school board heard more school principal presentations Monday, a new board meeting agenda item Hage established recently.

Monday night, principals from East Fairmont Middle and Blackshere Elementary updated the board on how their schools have faired thus far.

Debra Conover, principal of EFMS, laid out issues she and her staff face, though many of the issues are not unique to her school.

Students all over the country have struggled this year with low test scores and missing benchmarks, mainly due to last year’s digital teaching format and month-long closings.

Conover said she believes interventionists can be used to help students who are struggling and other measures, such as devoting homeroom time to catching up on homework and assignments.

“There’s lots of things [students] can do during that homeroom time that can help them with their grades and help make up those gaps,” Conover said.

After the presentation by Conover was Janie DeVaul, principal of Blackshere Elementary.

Many of her concerns centered around students falling behind in formative skills such as reading and writing that are foundational in higher grade levels. She said many of the second graders at Blackshere are having trouble reading.

At this point in the school calendar, DeVaul said she is looking for progress.

“Right now we’re trying to make progress. I’m not shooting for perfection right now, but progress,” DeVaul said. “We’ve already started to see it in our children and we’re going to continue to see it.”

Hage and board members applauded the principals for their diligence throughout the pandemic.

“I really appreciate these principals. Mrs. Conover... you’ve earned the support of the community,” Board Member James Saunders said. “and Dr. DeVaul, you’re a leader among leaders and you gave a great report today... so thank you.”

COVID-19 update

Over the last four weeks, the schools have seen the COVID case numbers rise and fall. Last Monday the county saw 18 new cases in the schools and this week that was up to 31.

Of those 31 positives were three fifth graders from East Fairmont High School, bringing the total positives in the EFHS fifth grade to seven and total quarantines to 96.

Other business:

  • The board approved $10,000 in levy funds to be sent to each school for spending on “school improvements.”
  • The board approved grant spending for continuation of the Imagination Library Program.
  • Marion County Schools received a $250,000 grant to purchase and upkeep Chromebooks for students in the district.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. at the central office on Mary Lou Retton Drive in Fairmont.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.

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