After months of sheltering in place and lamenting the mid-March closure of schools, the eyes of Hampshire County are starting to turn to the reopening of schools and what schools this fall will look like.
Will the classes even be in person? How will schools continue to follow safe social distancing guidelines? Will everyone be required to wear masks?
These and many of the other questions hurtling toward the Hampshire County Health Department don’t have set-in-stone answers yet, but they are working with the county school board to come up with ideas to move the schools forward in the safest and most health-conscious way possible.
“We are still working on a school reentry task force,” said Health Department Director Stephanie Shoemaker said last week. “There’s a lot to think about with this; we have reviewed it and are batting around different scenarios, and we’re going to get that information out to parents as soon as we can.”
The task force meetings have been canceled for the last 2 weeks, but Shoemaker hopes that some direction soon will be coming from the state to point Hampshire County in the right direction as far as school reentry.
At Monday evening’s school board meeting, Superintendent Jeff Pancione added that this week, he will be sending out surveys to folks in Hampshire County to get a feel for how many families would feel comfortable sending their children to in-person school.
Pancione describe some of the questions that this survey may entail such as: “How many students in your family attend school? Do you intend to send them back, knowing that we have increased sanitation, social distancing and recommended masks for students? Would you be interested in choosing a virtual school option for your students?”
The West Virginia Department of Education came out with a few possible school reentry scenarios, including elements of a regular school day that might have to change to fit the new, social-distance-conscious guidelines.
The safer at school and safer at home plan outlines that students will attend school a minimum of 4 days a week with 1 day of remote learning, where the building will be thoroughly sanitized. The state information showed that this is the preferred elementary scenario.
Blended learning delivery models are also being looked at, with students attending school a limited number of days with possible limited class sizes and scheduling aimed at minimizing student movement too much throughout the building.
The last scenario considered by the state board is full remote delivery, which is the potential plan if an outbreak occurs in one of the schools and a stay-at-home order is issued. Teachers and students will, in this case, communicate daily as students complete their assignments remotely.
So, what does reentry look like in Hampshire County right now? The task force hasn’t yet developed a full answer to that question, because direction is still needed from the state.
“We will have some level of in-person classrooms,” Shoemaker explained. “What exactly that will look like is up in the air.”
Along with adjusting the school day’s look and feel, several other elements brought up by the state need to be considered.
For example, schools should consider limiting visitors in the buildings and develop protocols for mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing, etc. Now might be the time to consider outdoor learning whenever possible as well and the role of nurses will be more important than ever to monitor the health of students, staff and facilities.
With the state reopening, Hampshire County conversations turn again to the Hampshire High School graduation ceremony at Wapacoma campground, which has been scheduled for Saturday, July 18.
As of right now, considering the case numbers for COVID-19 in Hampshire County, the graduation ceremony is still a go.
“If we continue to run fairly smoothly, graduation will occur,” Shoemaker said. o
The state Board of Education wants your input about school reentry efforts and how to best respond to student, staff and community needs in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic.
Find 3 additional surveys to take on the WVDE website (https://wvde.us/) and search “Re-entry Surveys.” Let your voice be heard as the Mountain State prepares to face this challenge head-on.
A high-speed chase that began in Hardy County Thursday afternoon ended atop Cooper Mountain when Sheriff John Alkire nabbed the car’s teen occupants in the briar-filled woods behind Mountain View Assembly of God Church.
The 17-year-olds from Missouri are not being named because they are juveniles, but they face a litany of charges, including fleeing in a vehicle, failure to obey traffic signs, improper registration, driving left of center and passing in a no-passing zone. Other charges may be brought by the Hardy County Prosecutor as juvenile proceedings.
The chase began on Corridor H when troopers monitoring a construction zone about 10 miles east of Moorefield spotted the black BMW 335i blast through the zone at 100 mph, ignoring directions to stop.
A license check revealed the car’s tags didn’t match the vehicle. The boys later told officers they had just bought the car with 180,000 miles on it and “borrowed” a plate from another family vehicle.
Officers chased the car east. It dodged spike strips set up by Hardy County deputies in Wardensville, where the driver briefly stopped and changed seats with the passenger before the car sped off again across Route 259 to U.S. 50 in Gore, Va.
Frederick County, Va., deputies intercepted the BMW as it sped east on 50, but the driver turned around and headed west into Hampshire County.
With police from Hardy, Hampshire and Frederick chipping in, spike strips were set at the old Hanging Rock Café on the west side of Cooper Mountain and in Lovett’s Flat at the eastern base of the peak.
“The boys saw that [at Hanging Rock], turned around and headed east again,” Alkire said.
But deputies sitting in Lovett’s Flat said the car never came back that far.
“Go behind the church,” Chief Deputy Nathan Sions suggested over the radio to officers on the scene.
That’s where Alkire and a state trooper found the vehicle, but no suspects. After searching the church grounds, Alkire spotted depressions in the grass leading into the woods and followed the tracks.
He spotted the pair down a steep hillside. They told him they were searching for one guy’s dropped cellphone.
“What are you really doing here?” Alkire asked.
When help arrived he escorted the duo out of the woods and into custody.
A K9 unit from Frederick County didn’t find any drugs in the vehicle.
Afterward, Hardy County Chief Deputy Dave Warren thanked citizen onlookers for their help tracking the vehicle.
“Without the overwhelming assistance of the general public, these dangerous juvenile drivers could have easily injured themselves or innocent drivers in their path,” he said.
YELLOW SPRING — A search warrant for elder abuse charges turned into a bust for operating a clandestine meth lab Sunday in Yellow Spring.
Todd Bradley Davis, 35, was in Potomac Highlands Regional Jail Monday afternoon on $35,012 bond, charged with several crimes.
West Virginia State Police, Hampshire County Sheriff’s Deputies and Natural Resource Police all converged on Davis’s Yellow Spring home Sunday, responding to a report claiming elder abuse and neglect, financial exploitation of the elderly, power-of-attorney abuse and possession of controlled dangerous substances.
During a search of the home, officers saw both methamphetamine and marijuana, several smoking devices and a trashcan containing components of a clandestine meth lab.
Meth techs Sgt. C.T. Kessel and Cpl. J.E. Whisner were called to secure the scene while Cpl. D.A. Bowland obtained a second search warrant for the meth lab.
After Kessel and Whisner processed the scene, Davis was arrested for operating a clandestine meth lab. The investigation remains ongoing and additional charges may be pending.
AUGUSTA — When the Hampshire High School class of 2020’s senior year came to an all-too-abrupt halt, it seemed like all of the events that make a senior year special, such as prom, were headed by the wayside thanks to the global pandemic.
Some folks in the HHS community are looking to change that with a July 17 prom — with the theme “A Year to Remember” — to be held at Bigg Rigg’s barn in Augusta from 7-11 p.m.
Spearheading the effort is Kristin Mumpower, a parent of 2020 senior Kalei Haines. Her plan for Hampshire County is a simple one: have a senior-focused prom, independent of the school itself, to give them a night to celebrate with their friends.
“The seniors were cut short of their senior year,” Mumpower explained. “It was very important to me for them to have closure with their classmates as they begin their new journey in life.”
Gov. Jim Justice’s word on proms in the Mountain State was a firm one: “Unfortunately, proms still cannot be allowed. It’s not only extremely difficult, it's for all practical purposes impossible to keep social distancing indoors, and especially when you’re having close dancing and singing.”
While Justice’s sentiment about proms was heard, this event, while holding the classic moniker, is not technically a “prom” because it isn’t sanctioned by HHS itself.
Stephanie Shoemaker, director of the Hampshire County Health Department, offered her input on this event, working with Mumpower to stage this event in the most health-conscious way possible.
“This event does not need Health Department approval, though we did reach out to ensure that there were safety practices in place,” Shoemaker explained. “We want to make sure that if this event is going to happen, this event and any event is as safe as possible.”
So, the question is, how will the community make this event work in the time of COVID-19?
“When the seniors arrive, anyone who comes, we have to take their temperature,” said Mumpower. “It’s not mask-mandatory, and it will be held in a barn so all the doors will be open and fresh air will be flowing through.”
As far as following the social distancing guidelines, the plan is for seniors to sit 4 per table (the tables seat 6-8 people), so attendees can spread themselves out.
Anyone who shows up for this event, senior, date or chaperone, along with a temperature check at the door will have to answer 4 COVID-19 screening questions about recent contacts, symptom checks and seeing if they’ve had a fever in the last 24 hours.
“We want to get 2 or 3 lines going, hopefully,” Mumpower said. “And we can start checking temperatures at 6:30.”
One of the prom mainstays is the crowning of a Prom Queen and King, and last year’s prom royalty, Jessi Buckler and Grant Mayfield will help crown this year’s winners.
With the King and Queen question answered, another important part of prom is the music. Well, Mumpower has that under control, too.
“Hampshire Meats sponsored DJ Matt Clower,” Mumpower revealed.
Aaron Cox, owner of Hampshire Meats, said that as a local business, Hampshire Meats strives to support the community, especially seeing how rough this school year was for the seniors who have had to miss out on milestone high school events.
“With senior year being a milestone movement into their next stage of life, we felt that supporting an event like [this] would be an opportunity to give our much-deserving 2020 Trojan seniors a unique memory for their already-unique scrapbook,” Cox said.
With the restrictions placed on events with more than 100 people, Mumpower said she isn’t worried about the prom event reaching that many attendees, but more importantly, she needs an accurate head count of who plans on attending so that Calvin Riggleman and the Bigg Rigg’s staff can make enough food.
Mumpower expressed gratitude toward Riggleman, saying that he isn’t charging for food preparation, though donations are definitely needed for purchase, as well as for decorations.
While the ball is certainly rolling on this event, there are a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out, and Mumpower needs help with chaperones and volunteers to help with elements like parking.
“I’m really looking for chaperones that aren’t parents,” she said. She also mentioned that the sheriff’s department will be assisting with traffic control in Augusta the night of the event so students may arrive and leave as safely as possible.
Along with chaperones, there will be giveaways happening throughout the night during prom, and so Mumpower is still accepting donations for baskets or gift cards to be given away to make this night even more special for seniors.
Mumpower said she’d like students who want to attend to RSVP to her at email@example.com by Friday. Those who don’t RSVP will still be welcome to attend, but an accurate count is helpful for food planning purposes. Anyone who wishes to donate or volunteer to help with the event in any way can also contact Mumpower.
“Their senior year was supposed to be the best year of their life,” Mumpower said. “They had no clue that day in March would be their last day pulling into HHS, parking in their assigned parking spot, walk the halls of HHS, see their classmates and friends, attend their last high school class and having that teacher for the last time. It was extremely hard for seniors.”