PHILIPPI - West Virginia University Extension Agent Josh Peplowski spoke with members of the Barbour County Board of Education Monday regarding the possibility of establishing a meat processing program at the Barbour County Career Technical Education Center.
"When I first came to Barbour County I wanted to know what kind of meats program you had," Peplowski said. "I was disappointed to hear that you did not have one currently in place. I talked with (board member) Doward Matlick, and he was excited for the idea of bringing back a program and expanding the program you had."
Peplowski said he had several state employees come down to discuss the possibility of the program, including an extension specialist at the Small Farm Center, and a state veterinarian with the regulatory side of the meat industry in the state. Peplowski said he had the engineers look at expanding an available room at the CTE Center.
"We are looking at the impact the program would have for the local producers and consumers," Peplowski said.
Matlick, a farmer, said he is experiencing a six-month wait for animals to be processed.
"A facility like this would be a great opportunity for local producers," Peplowski said. "What we are trying to do is an economic feasibility study and community impact plan to see how many people we could affect with a facility like this. With Barbour and the surrounding counties, we could possibly impact 100,000 people."
Peplowski said a meats program in the schools would help not only the community, but the students.
"If it had not been for the meats program at my high school, I may not have made it through," Peplowski said. "It's hard to believe, but that is one of the reasons I went to school. When you guys talk about how to retain kids through 12 grades and keep drop-out rates down, the only way to go is hands-on programs like this."
Peplowski said when kids come out of something like the proposed meats program, they always have that type of vocational training they can use by working at a grocery store or starting their own business.
Board members agreed the idea of this program should be discussed at the next board meeting.
In other business, board members reviewed policy 8430, regarding a random drug testing policy for students involved in the simulated workplace program. Students can also "opt in" to take the random drug tests. The board received $1,200 from the state for testing students in the simulated workplace program. The state requires 40 percent of those students be tested for drugs.
Board members discussed who would be tested under the new policy.
"I think our good kids are getting tired of being painted with the same brush that says all teenagers are drug addicts," board member Dana Stemple said.
Dr. Joseph Super, superintendent of Barbour County Schools, said he would clean up the language in the policy, add that associated costs will be payable by the family for students opting-in, and present the recommendation at the next board meeting.
The next regular meeting of the Barbour County Board of Education is slated for 6 p.m. Dec. 16 at the board office.