DeVos Recognizes JCS Employees

DeVos Recognizes JCS Employees
Posted on 10/02/2020
KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos held a roundtable discussion in Jefferson County Thursday. Her goal was to learn more about the plans Jefferson County Schools (JCS) created to address the COVID-19 Pandemic and get students learning again, both in-person and online.
               Secretary DeVos began the visit by popping into an 8th Grade Science Class at Charles Town Middle School via Zoom. She spoke to science teacher Sandra Pulsifer and her class about what they enjoyed about being back in school and how they were adjusting to new guidelines and protocol.
               They all agreed that being back with their classmates was a highlight and that the new safety guidelines wee not inhibiting their learning.
The panel discussion focused on six topics: relationship, communication, safety, instruction, support, and being future-ready. Participants making up the group at the round table included principals, teachers, parents, students, a school counselor, a bus driver, a custodian, a cook, and an aide. Secretary DeVos took time to greet each member of the panel before beginning the discussion, that moderated by Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson.
West Virginia School Superintendent Clayton Burch, who was also on hand for the event, introduced Secretary DeVos and spoke about the importance of getting kids back in school.
He said that JCS led the way on that front.
“We saw that children were being fed. We saw adults stepping up to the plate. Jefferson County had a plan even before the state. It was the first plan I shared with the State Board of Education.”
Secretary DeVos asked about the protocol for safely getting students back in the classroom, an emphasis for her. Jimmy Padgett, Head Custodian at Washington High School, said they have all the supplies they need to do the work, including help from their co-workers.
“We have so much support from the teachers,” he told the group. “That has been such a help and it free us [custodians] up to hit those doorknobs and clean the bathroom more frequently.”
Everyone present said they felt very safe in school, including Jefferson High School Band Director J.P. Lynch. Lynch said he originally thought that students might have trouble following safety guidelines.
“I thought we would have to continually have to remind them about the mask. I just told them from the beginning, ‘You don’t wear the mask, we don’t get to see each other.’ It hasn’t been a problem.”
Brogan Dozier, a senior at Washington High School, had similar concerns, but said that the plans JCS implemented have been effective.
“I feel safe in my school, and that’s saying a lot because my family took a lot of extra precautions when this COVID pandemic broke out.”
Dozier also praised the communication efforts of the school system. 
“It was really eye-opening to feel as though I had a voice in what I was facing when I walked back into the school, seeing our sanitation services, our cooks, everyone collaborating together and coming up with the plans."
Parents participating in the talk had similar sentiments, stating that they appreciated the effort put forward by the teachers and service personnel who stayed in touch from the very beginning of the pandemic.
Emphasis was also placed on the progress JCS has made into offering a virtual learning option for families. Dr. Gibson said that technology is important, but that it will never take the place of a good teacher.
Dr. Gibson reiterated to Secretary DeVos that staff at JCS are feeling overwhelmed with the workload brought on by the pandemic, but that they were working hard to support kids.
Secretary DeVos acknowledged that hard work and said that there was no way school would be open now if not for the important work done by JCS school staff.

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