BUCKHANNON - Two decisions recently made by the Barbour County Board of Education were questioned by three individuals who appeared before board members Monday, asking them to reconsider their stances on the issues.
On July 8, the BOE voted 3-2 to move fifth-graders from elementary schools to the middle schools for the 2014-2015 school year. Members also voted 3-2 on Oct. 5 to have this year's prom outside the county.
These decisions were not met with unanimous favor from the public either, as some residents are now asking board members to think twice about the consequences of those votes.
"Everyone that I have spoken to in the last month about transferring fifth-graders to the Philippi Middle School tells me that they think that it would be a grievous mistake on the part of the Board," resident Robert A. Jones said.
"I know that it's hard to admit mistakes and it's even harder to change votes. I understand those things. What we are asking you to do is to stand up and be counted, to have the courage of your convictions - simply to do what is really the right thing to do," Jones said. "I beseech you please, please have the courage to change the vote. Do what you know is best for our children. Please keep these fifth-graders in their respective schools."
Board members said the primary reason they approved moving fifth-graders is overcrowding at schools in part of the county, particularly the southern part of Barbour County.
Resident Jason Clay said he wanted to address the board because of a concern on the part of students at Mt. Vernon Elementary School.
Earlier in the meeting, during a Learning School Improvement Council Report, students told the board they were anxious about moving fifth-graders to the middle school. School officials said the content of the presentation given by the students - which also included a report of school activities, progress and achievement - was entirely student-led.
Referencing the LSIC report, Clay said bullying and violence in schools could worsen as a result of the decision to move the fifth-graders.
"As the year's progress, cases that we have been made publicly aware of about bullying and violent acts that take place in our classrooms have been rapidly increasing," Clay said. "Since 2003, there has not been a single year that has passed in this nation that we have not had a shooting at either a high school or a middle school.
"So, we pose the question: wouldn't moving students into an environment where other students are larger and bolder make it more conducive to an environment for bullying? That being said, wouldn't we potentially be putting these children at a greater risk of a bullying incident?"
Another resident, Kathy McVicker, had a separate concern to address. The Bridgeport Conference Center was proposed as the location for this year's prom by Philip Barbour High School junior class president Faith Cline. McVicker said she was concerned about hosting the prom in a neighboring county.
"Why, all of a sudden, do we have to have it traveling so far when we have a new school that we can have it in?" McVicker asked. "I think it's a major concern, the traveling back and forth. I just don't think it's a very good idea."
McVicker also said that renting the building could spawn multiple out-of-county trips that would be required to decorate for prom, unless the conference center employees offer to decorate. Not only would decorations cause a trip to the center the day before prom, but clean-up would be a different matter altogether, she said.
"After the prom, they're either going to have to stay there and clean up the decorations and get those out of the way, or they're going to have to go back the next day," McVicker said. "How many of those kids are going to want to do that?
"I really feel that it's really a bad idea, and I think the parents should have had some kind of input on it," she added.
Board President Robert Wilkins thanked everyone for voicing their concerns and said the board looks forward to hearing them. Speakers also thanked the board for the opportunity to state their concerns.
"We do appreciate the opportunity to have our voices heard here," Clay said. "We realize that votes made by this board are done so