SPENCER, W.Va. — A new school year began Wednesday in Roane County and according to Superintendent Dr. Richard Duncan, students were welcomed with additional support.

House Bill 206, the omnibus education reform bill signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice in late June, appropriated an additional $30.5 million for support services in schools such as social workers, psychologists, and counselors.

Duncan said on Wednesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline’ that his district has seen quite the impact from the bill.

Roane County Schools

Dr. Richard Duncan

“We have beefed up our student support services so much that we have expanded our department of special education to a wealth of services. We have given new titles to folks and really expanded what they are focused on,” Duncan said.

Roane County now has two full-time school psychologists, one full-time school social worker, a counselor in every school, a nurse in every school, and additional counselor in Roane County High School, according to Duncan.

The school system features Geary Elementary/Middle School, Roane County High School, Spencer Elementary School, Spencer Middle School, and Walton Elementary/Middle School.

“We are a system of only 2,000 students. To have this level of service to provide to our students, even being as small as we are, is quite phenomenal,” he said.

Educators around the state continually brought wraparound services to the forefront of the education reform debate over the past year.

Duncan said while there remain plenty of great households around the state, the number of students without a solid support network at home is increasing.

“It is becoming such a larger part of the classroom and that distracts from everything else going on,” he said.

“If you are not sure where you are going to go when you leave school that day or if Friday afternoon is the most anxious time for you and not the happiest time, as it was for me when I was in school, that really changes your perspective on school.”

The omnibus bill, which created $177 million in new spending on public education, also included pay raises, charter schools, open enrollment, incentives to fill in-demand positions and financial support for small or struggling counties.

Duncan said it will be hard to tell the impact of other provisions in the bill until later in the school year.

“There are some great moves to increase the local accountability of schools through the LSICs, the local school improvement councils, with shifting their focus. We are just not into the school year far enough,” he said.

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