Return to classroom still up in the air
Each day is a new day and with it comes new achievements and new challenges. Since Pocahontas County Schools closed March 20 due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the staff has focused on the needs of the students – both academically and nutritionally.
Students have been working on snow packets, as well as with teachers online to keep their instruction going, and the staff has delivered meals to keep the students healthy.
This week, the plan changed a little and superintendent Terrence Beam says that even though things are different, the school system is still focused on the well-being of the students.
“We’re going to be dispersing containers from our three sites – Hillsboro, Green Bank and Marlinton Elementary schools – a packet of five meals, which will be for Tuesday through Monday,” Beam said. “That doesn’t include the weekend, of course, but it will be five meals for students.”
At this time, the school system is no longer using buses to deliver meals, but it will continue to provide meals at the three aforementioned sites.
Academically, teachers are thinking outside the box and finding ways to reach their students to make sure they understand the materials they are studying at home.
“We’ve asked teachers to contact each of their students at least once a week to see how they’re doing,” Beam said. “Some of the teachers are doing one-on-one things online with the kids, which they feel really good about. So, we’re going to continue to do that.”
Since plans for the future are fuzzy right now – with changes being made on a daily basis as Governor Jim Justice updates the state each day – Beam said there are still a lot of unanswered questions, but for now, things will continue as they are for the foreseeable future.
All West Virginia school superintendents took part in a conference call last week, and while there was a lot to discuss, they did not touch on when schools might be back in session.
“In the last few meetings we had, it hasn’t even come up as a topic,” Beam said. “The main topics that we’ve been talking about are ‘how do we deliver instruction’ and ‘how do we continue to feed our kids without putting our employees in harm’s way.’ That’s been the discussion.
“I think anything else would be a little presumptuous right now,” he continued. “I’m very hopeful that they won’t just say, ‘we’re done for the year.’ Do I think that it’s a possibility? I certainly do, but I’d hate for them to do that and then turn around and find out a month down the road that we could have had another month of school.”
Beam said he feels for the students right now because they are going through a difficult time in which they are losing out not only on their education, but their social interactions which are just as important.
“Our kids are missing out, not only on the academic part, but the social part of being around their friends,” he said. “Our high school seniors – going through graduation and their senior prom – those things are big deals. I hope they don’t just throw that all away at one time.
“All we can do is try to do the best we can with what we have,” he continued. “I don’t like to see kids go hungry, it’s one of the things that I hate the most, but also, I have a responsibility to our employees to not put them in harm’s way.”
Despite not knowing what will happen next, Beam said the staff has done an incredible job adjusting and working together for the sake of the students.
“We’ve got some great employees that have stepped up and complained very, very little about anything we’ve asked them to do,” he said. “Lori Doolittle and Ruth Bland worked with the transportation and food service, and they’ve just done a phenomenal job, and they’re both worn out.”
Even if the school year is shortened and students don’t return to the classroom, Beam said they will still try to do some of the positive programs that recognize the students and staff for their achievements.
“We’re still going to recognize our Super Scholars and our Teachers and Service Personnel of the Year,” he said. “We might not have the ceremony, but we’re still going to recognize them.”
Beam will give a weekly update on school information to The Pocahontas Times.