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BARC Funding Supports Schools Highlands

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LOW MOOR — The BARC Electric Cooperative donated $6,000 to Alleghany County Public Schools Monday. The money will be used for educational programs needing additional resources to advance opportunities for students.

The Alleghany County School Board announced the donation Monday during a meeting at Mountain View Elementary School.

“I love to see big and small businesses give back to the schools,” said Jason Helmintoller, who represents the Sharon District on the school board.

Based in Millboro, BARC is donating a total of $20,000 to local public school systems in Alleghany, Bath and Rockbridge counties.

Each school system will receive a total of $6,000-$8,000. BARC utilized matching funds from CoBank’s Sharing Success program to make the donations possible.

In a prepared statement, BARC chief executive officer Mike Keyser said the cooperative remains committed to its local school systems as part of the cooperative’s community commitment focusing on support of educational programs to develop a strong workforce pipeline for the region. In addition to providing financial aid, Keyser said BARC hosts students at its solar learning center, and the cooperative maintains a paid internship program for high school students.

“As a cooperative that serves the community, and is comprised of people raised in the community, there is no more valuable investment this organization can make than in supporting education in our local schools. BARC’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve and education is a top priority towards that mission. We are fortunate to have access to the CoBank program, and to be in a financial position to be able to make these donations,” he said.

In recognizing BARC’s support of Alleghany County schools, Danielle Morgan, the school board’s vice chairwoman said, “Our community always steps up and gives our school system what we need.”

The board recognized its newest member during Monday’s meeting. Patrice Jefferson was appointed to the Clifton Forge West District seat by Alleghany County Circuit Court Judge Edward K. Stein. Jefferson will serve while legal matters surrounding Donnie Kern are resolved.

Judge Stein suspended Kern from the school board until a petition to have him permanently removed is resolved. The petition was filed by the Alleghany County Board of Supervisors in December.

“You will be an asset to the board,” Covington District school board representative Gerald Franson said to Jefferson Monday night.

The board briefly discussed an annual report on the number of students receiving a free or reduced-price lunch. All five schools have more than 40 percent of students qualifying for the federal program.

For a family of four to qualify for a free lunch, the annual household income must be $34,450 or less. To qualify for a reduced-price lunch, a family of four must have an annual income of $49,025, or 185 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

“It’s pretty consistent,” said Director of Finance Keven Rice in referencing the three-year trend for free and reduced-price lunches.

Fred Vaughan, director of human resources and pupil personnel, said school officials continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the school board will be presented with a draft plan that will provide guidance on student participation in field trips.

The idea of providing academic support volunteers in schools to assist students is also being discussed.

Vaughan said school officials are monitoring the status of federal guidelines regarding mandated COVID-19 vaccines for employees.

“That is currently entangled in the legal process,” he said.

Mountain View’s principal, April Easton, and two students told the school board they are happy to be back in school five days a week after the pandemic wreaked havoc on personal instruction last year.

“In this whole world of crazy we have been living in, it’s been a blessing to see our students five days a week,” Easton said.

The board’s school nursing program drew praise from Mountain View teacher Joleen Feazell. After becoming ill at school earlier this year, the school nurse and staff assisted Feazell. She was advised to seek medical treatment and underwent successful surgery in the summer.

She credits the nursing program for saving her life.

Eric Tyree, supervisor of maintenance and transportation, said drawings for improvements to the outdoor track at Alleghany High School, were received earlier this week.

Tyree said he hopes to have bids on the project by Christmas.

Drawings and cost estimates will be for a six-lane and eight-lane track.

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