Parkersburg High School announces changes for 2017-18 school year

Photo by Michael Erb Parkersburg High School Principal Kenny DeMoss stands next to one of the four Hall Pass Visitor Management System computers which will track student tardiness as well as school visitors for the 2017-18 school year.

PARKERSBURG — Students returning to Parkersburg High School this week will see several campus improvements as well as a new system to track classroom attendance.

Principal Kenny DeMoss said crews have worked throughout the summer beautifying the school inside and out and reorganizing the administrative offices to better serve students and parents.

The administrative offices were swapped with the counseling center and are now on the right when a person enters the main hallway. The change also allows the administrators to have windows looking out on the campus.

“We can see and be seen,” he said. “We gave up space to increase safety. Now we can look out and see what’s going on.”

The counseling offices were moved into the former administrative offices, and that area has now become the Student Services Center. The center will house attendance, financial offices, the school nurse, school counselors and the registrar.

Photo by Michael Erb Expanded visitor parking and new banners are just some of the changes which will greet returning and new students Wednesday at Parkersburg High School.

“It’s a one-stop shop for the kids and parents,” he said.

DeMoss said the school has a open house planned for 4:45-6:45 p.m. Tuesday. At 5 p.m., a freshman orientation for students and parents will be held in the school auditorium. After the presentation, those students will be able to tour the school and visit classrooms.

But in a change from previous years, DeMoss said, the first two days of school will be a continuation of freshman orientation for ninth-grade students.

“We hope to get them better acclimated to high school, so when they come to class on Friday they have a good understanding of what is expected,” he said.

Freshman students historically have had the highest rates of truancy and disciplinary issues, DeMoss said. Officials hope the extra days of orientation will significantly cut down on those numbers.

The school also is implementing changes to how it handles student absence and tardiness, with the help of some old and new technology. Teachers will now simply take attendance as “present” or “absent.” A student arriving late to class will instead be sent to one of four Hall Pass Visitor Management System computers, which scan the student’s ID and print out a hall pass with the time of their arrival. Students won’t be admitted back into class without the hall pass, DeMoss said.

That system will allow the school to track how often students are late to class without putting the burden on the teachers or causing disputes, he said.

Student pictures will be taken the first Monday and Tuesday of the new school year, and DeMoss said new students should have IDs by the end of the month. Parkersburg High already requires student IDs to be warn daily and displayed on a lanyard.

“I think this new Hall Pass system will really help us dealing with tardiness,” he said.

The system also can be used to scan a visitor’s driver’s license and print out a temporary visitor pass complete with the person’s picture, he said. Their license will automatically be compared to a database of people not allowed in the school, such as those on the state’s sex offender registry, he said.

The school also will use blue slips to track absences each semester. The blue slips are small forms with carbon copies. In the past, students dropped parent excuses into a box which was later sorted and administrators modified the absence list.

“There was no face-to-face conversation as to why you missed school,” he said.

With the new system, which actually was in practice until about five years ago, DeMoss said, there is more accountability.

“It cuts down on that skipping component,” he said.

Outside the school, crews have done landscaping, replaced dead or damaged trees and have added Parkersburg High School flags on the lightpoles surrounding the horseshoe.

“The idea is to get people passing by to think, ‘if it looks this good on the outside, how good does it look on the inside?'” DeMoss said. “The place looks really good.”

Crews also installed new signage, expanded visitor parking, and put handicapped parking in more accessible areas in front of and behind the school.

“It’s much more apparent now where you can and cannot park,” he said.

DeMoss said the focus of the changes and improvements are to get more students into school and to give them a reason to stay.

“We want them to have a place they’re proud of, where they want to come to school,” he said. “My focus here is to build relationships with kids and the community. There is a great buzz at PHS for this new school year.”