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HUNTINGTON — The Cabell County Board of Education had previously voted not to return full-time, in-person instruction until all employees had received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine, but that day could now come sooner rather than later.

Following a presentation from Assistant Superintendent Tim Hardesty concerning the vaccine rollout in Cabell County, board member Rhonda Smalley motioned to add the resumption of a traditional five-day learning week to the agenda for a special meeting scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25.

Hardesty said 614 professional staff have now received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine. That accounts for nearly 55% of full-time professional employees. Additionally, 318 service personnel have received both doses, a tic above 38%.

Approximately 150 district employees have received one dose and will be able to receive their second doses in the coming week. When those employees receive the second dose, 70% of professional and 61% of service personnel will be fully vaccinated.

Cabell County has held five vaccine clinics to vaccinate full-time employees since the beginning of the calendar year, and a sixth will happen in the coming weeks when another group of employees become eligible to receive the second dose of the vaccine.

Hardesty said some employees elected not to receive the vaccine and others have received the initial dose but opted out of receiving the second dose due to symptoms they experienced after having received the first.

Hardesty said that because the first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine are the same, if a second dose was not administered to an employee for any reason, it was offered as a first dose to another full-time employee.

Board members again encouraged all employees to receive the vaccine when eligible, even though the county will not offer any future clinics for those in search of the first dose.

“(The symptoms) are for 24 hours, it’s not that bad,” board member Carole Garrison said, later reminding the public that more than a half-million people in the United States have died because of the pandemic.

Substitute teachers and other part-time employees are not included in the reported numbers and were not offered the vaccine by the district.

Following the report from Hardesty, board member Rhonda Smalley moved to add an item of discussion to Thursday’s meeting regarding the return to full-time in-person learning.

In other business, board members approved a request from Superintendent Ryan Saxe, giving him the authority to execute a purchase and sale agreement and other related documents for the former Sears property at the Huntington Mall for up to $5.6 million.

The property was one of two potential sites presented to board members for the new Career and Technology Center building.

A discussion and decision for the location of the Meadows Elementary is expected to occur next week. Saxe recommended the new elementary school be built “in the vicinity” of the current school.

Assistant Superintendent Kim Cooper reported that no schools in the district suffered significant damage from ice, fallen trees or power lines following winter storms last week. Some bus routes remain impassable due to road conditions and some low-lying tree branches.

Salt Rock Elementary School will resume normal operations Tuesday. It was the only school in the district that didn’t return on Monday, delayed by one day after power was restored late Sunday evening. Central City Elementary School does not currently have internet access but all schools have operating phone and security systems.

In other business, board members approved the third reading and adoption of 26 policy updates for the district.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Brandon Tinney, AFT representative for Cabell County proposed a pay raise for all county employees, which if adopted would make district employees the second-highest paid in the state of West Virginia.

The proposal was made in response to a recent pay raise approved by board members for Saxe as is written in his contract. Currently, Cabell employees rank 11th in West Virginia as it relates to salaries for professional personnel.

Luke Creasy is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @HDcreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.

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