NEW CUMBERLAND - Safety improvements to the large metal press box doors at the Oak Glen High School Field of Dreams should be done in time for spring sports, the Hancock County Board of Education learned on Monday.
School Board President Jerry Durante, who had been critical of the design of the heavy doors, said he met with the architect, McKinley & Associates, of Wheeling, last week and is satisfied with the remedy.
"The issue with the press box is resolved," Durante said. "They did attend to the problem, and I wanted to give them credit for that."
Weir Middle School eighth-grader Abigail Cowher addresses the Hancock County school board Monday night during a presentation about academic improvements at her school and Weir High School. Next to her is Weir Middle School Principal Terry McAtee. -- Stephen Huba
At issue was the weight of the doors - about 80 pounds each - and the potential for someone in the press box to get hurt using them. The eight doors - four each in the girls and boys press boxes - open at the bottom and latch to the ceiling, allowing press box occupants a full view of the baseball and softball fields.
"They needed to be more secure. It was a safety issue," Durante said.
At two recent meetings, school board members had been critical of the doors' design and the perceived lack of a solution on the part of contractors. Unbeknownst to the school board, however, a solution was in the works, Durante said.
McKinley had been working on a "pneumatic closer" that will make the doors easier and safer to use, Durante said. One has been installed and the rest are on order, Superintendent Suzan Smith said.
Also Monday, the board approved 14 teacher resignations, including 12 retirements. The retirements are effective in June.
Smith said the board acted on the retirements all at one time because West Virginia gives teachers until Jan. 15 to announce their intentions. A teacher is eligible to retire when he or she reaches age 55 and has 30 years' experience.
Smith said she will wait until the end of the school year to determine which of the vacancies will need to be filled for the 2013-14 year.
"There's a wealth of knowledge that is leaving when these teachers leave and when you look at the number of years they've taught," she said. "Any time these teachers have been experienced teachers, that experience is gone, so, yeah, it's a loss."
Smith said one factor in determining how many vacancies to fill is the district's enrollment, which has been down in recent years. The district lost 131 students between the 2011-12 school year and the current school year, according to the latest October head count.
The board also approved 30 non-certified coaches for a reduction-in-force (RIF), meaning they will have to reapply for the coaching positions next year. None of the affected coaches have teaching certificates, Smith said.
"State law says if you do not have a West Virginia teaching certificate, we have to have a RIF," she said. "Each year, we have to eliminate those people. Next year, when we post the position, they can bid on those positions."
The board also heard presentations about academic improvements at Weir Middle School and Weir High School. Students, teachers and principals from both schools addressed the board.
The board will meet at 6 p.m. today to consider a student expulsion.
Special meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 4, 5 and 6. The latter two are for RIF and transfer hearings.
The next regular board meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11.
(Huba can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)