Although virtual school was one of several options for students during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has remained a useful tool now that students are back in the classroom.
At the December 13 Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, the board received an update on the many reasons the virtual school program is still vital.
Spanish teacher Shirlene Groseclose explained that she has used virtual school for years, starting with the not so reliable Polycom system to now using Teams as a platform. When Groseclose joined the staff at Pocahontas County High School as the Spanish teacher, she stopped traveling to the middle schools to offer Spanish and instead went to the virtual option to allow students to take Spanish.
“Spanish is no longer available – a teacher per se – at the middle school level and elementary,” she said. “So, for years now, I’ve been working with students at the elementary and middle school virtually. It started out through the old Polycom system. I did that for years and now, of course, with Teams it’s so much easier.”
Groseclose has Spanish students at Marlinton Middle School who join Teams to take Spanish. She also has one fifth grade student at Marlinton Elementary School who is taking high school level Spanish 1.
“He’s doing wonderfully,” she said. “We’ve had some challenges because the schedules are different, but he’s such a responsible student that he’s able to do it because he catches up.”
Groseclose said it has been great to be able to expand Spanish offerings, but because it relies on technology, there can be some glitches involved. When the Teams network doesn’t work, however, Groseclose said she has websites she can rely on to provide virtual lessons to the students.
Pocahontas County High School business education teacher Cammy Kesterson gave a report on the credit recovery program, which uses West Virginia Learns and Con Academy, two virtual schools, to help students recover credits in order to remain on their graduation path.
“The majority of our students have to take those during the summer because most of them don’t have room in their schedule to take the whole class over and, honestly, it’s to their benefit to do it in summer school than to take the entire class over again,” she said.
This past summer, there were some technical issues with West Virginia Learns so Kesterson found lessons on Con Academy which helped her students earn their credits.
While the credit recovery summer program has helped students for years, Kesterson said she will have concerns if the high school changes how credits are earned. She explained that the high school is considering a change where students will earn half a credit in the fall semester and half a credit in the spring semester.
The change is still in the discussion stage.
This past summer, Kesterson had a student who moved to the county from another state, who went through the credit recovery program. He was behind but has been able to recover four and a half credits thus far. Kesterson said through the program and his hard work, he will be on track to graduate with his class.
Lynne Bostic said there are currently nine students enrolled in virtual school as an alternative to attending in person. Bostic is the director of curriculum, instruction and federal programs.
Virtual school is offered to middle and high school students through the West Virginia Learns program.
“We sit down with the parents before we allow them to enroll in our virtual school program,” Bostic said. “It’s just like if they were here in this school and they were failing, we’re going to intervene. We want them to be successful.”
The board thanked all three educators for their updates and for keeping the virtual school program going for students.