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Martins Ferry City School District Board of Education hears about juvenile programs from Belmont County judge Al Davis

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Belmont County Juvenile and Probate Judge Al Davies, standing, speaks to the Martins Ferry City School District Board of Education on Tuesday about new and ongoing programs to assist students. Board member Brian McFarland and Treasurer Dana Garrison listen.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Juvenile and Probate Judge Al Davies visited the Martins Ferry City School District Board of Education on Tuesday to give an update on current and future programs and services.

Davies said he intends to begin visiting all of Belmont County’s school boards.

“I kind of want to start doing this on an annual basis just to give you an update about what’s going on in the juvenile court as it relates to matters of education,” Davies said. “When I came on … (three years ago) I didn’t realize how many programs we offered through the juvenile court, and we’ve now taken on even more.”

He mentioned the virtual learning program and alternative school, operated with the financial support of the school districts. Davies said the districts pay half the costs to fund operations.

The virtual learning classroom at the Belmont Career Center is for students with difficulties in a traditional classroom setting.

The students are provided Chromebooks and the new instructor, retired Shadyside Local School District teacher Melanie Haswell, has run the alternative school for the last two years.

“She’s taken the job and run with it. She’s already had some amazing success stories,” Davies said.

In the alternative school for students under suspension, probation officers cover the school on a rotating basis.

“That seems to be working very well,” Davies said.

He said vaping is the top reason for suspensions and attendance in the alternative school.

“Vaping is out of control. It represented almost half of the reason for suspensions in the last school year. This year, it’s more than half,” Davies said, adding nicotine is a highly addictive and debilitating drug. “I’m really trying to get as much information out there as I possibly can.”

Davies said the Belmont County Schools Staying Clean program to deter youth from trying drugs is also seeing widespread participation.

“We are able to fund programs not only for kids in the club but for kids outside of the club as we try to promote a drug-free lifestyle,” he said.

Two weeks ago, speaker Nathan Harmon, a recovering addict, spoke to seventh- and eighth-graders at the Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling.

The next program will be Tyler’s Light, operated by Wayne Campbell, who founded the program after his son, Tyler, fatally overdosed.

“We’re trying to set up a program in the spring,” Davies said. “That’s something that we’re offering for all of our kids.”

Another new program is Juvenile Justice Jeopardy, conducted by police officers and in the format of the game show, but with questions focusing on laws, rights and proper interaction with law enforcement.

“We are rolling it out in St. Clairsville,” Davies said. “Then we’re going to take it to all the other schools.”

“We’re definitely going to take advantage of it,” Superintendent Jim Fogle said.

Davies said the court will also begin conducting mock trials again, with the first one likely in the spring.

“It’s a fantastic program. Thank you for bringing that back,” Fogle said.

“We have great student participation in the Belmont County Staying Clean Club,” Fogle added afterward.

He said the alternative school is also valuable when it is necessary to utilize those services, and many of the seventh- and eighth-graders found Harmon’s presentation riveting. He said vaping is not a major issue in Martins Ferry City School District.

In other matters, Fogle reported there have been no positive COVID-19 cases identified among staff or students in five of the last seven days.

“That’s a considerable drop in those cases. Hopefully we see this trend continue, because it’s definitely going in a very, very good direction,” Fogle said.

Also, Ayers Elementary will hold its annual Trunk or Treat at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 28.

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