FAIRMONT — Although students are out of school due to the coronavirus pandemic, school administrators and teachers are bringing their classes to them.
According to Randy Farley, superintendent of Marion County Schools, teachers are working remotely to get lesson plans to their students through the internet, so kids can learn, read and submit work and study online.
“Basically we are trying to continue as much as we can,” Farley said. “We’re getting information from teachers saying ‘This is how they set up with different classes.’”
While all the students’ work has technically become homework now, Farley said the system seems to be working well given the circumstances. While previously, parents were to pick up and return educational packets for students, now the system has moved mainly to online learning, which Farley said the kinks are being ironed out of.
“Our issues are the students who don’t have internet access,” Farley said. The state is working on some other things that might be beneficial to our students.”
To aid the students in the county who have bad or no internet access at their homes, the school administration set up Wi-Fi cafe’s at East Fairmont High, North Marion High and Fairmont Senior High, so students can log in at any time to get their assignments.
“Every one of our classrooms has a wireless access point, and there is some bleed over from that access point into parking lots and outside of schools,” said Chad Norman, administrative assistant for transportation and technology for Marion County Schools. “If you would drive up to a particular school you could get onto the internet at those particular sites.
“We have also set up ‘internet drive up cafes’ at each one of our three high schools.”
Norman also said the Marion County School system is providing more than 1,000 students with meals on a daily basis as well, and transportation staff and volunteers are bringing meals from the cafeteria staff to students by school bus.
“On a daily basis, right around 1,100 to 1,200 meals a day, that’s 1,200 packages,” Norman said. “In a package is a breakfast and lunch, so we’re servicing roughly 1,200 students and families.”
Norman said the National Guard will soon begin delivering meals for students across the county, potentially next week. This will change the distribution of meals, but will be able to continue supplying food to students in need.
“The State of West Virginia has contracted outside agencies to help provide meals to many of our counties,” he said. “The meals will be delivered by the National Guard, we’re just not sure when.”
Instruction, too, is carrying on remotely, with teachers using online tools to give students direction and assignments while they are at home.
“So far I’m very pleased with the communication back and forth from the administrators and some teachers,” said Steve Malnick, administrative assistant of curriculum for Marion County Schools. “Seems like things are going fairly well given the circumstances.”
Malnick said students and parents have different ways of communicating with their schools, and the technology available gives them multiple ways of doing it.
“Schools are making telephonic communications with the parents and the students,” Malnick said. “They’re able to contact that way as well, and they’re able to utilize that SchoolMessenger tool we have, and it doesn’t come through to their computer, it actually comes through telephone.”
With teachers working from home as well, their communication with the students and the school administration is pivotal at this time.
“Teachers are creating their lesson plans to give them direction and guidance,” Malnick said. “Schools are communicating with parents and students as well and doing the best they can to keep instruction flowing.”
Malnick applauded the teachers and administrators of each individual school for their efforts in keeping education going at this time, given the unprecedented circumstances they are in right now.
“We’re in a time right now where we’re starting to utilize tools due to the situation that are very helpful,” Malnick said. “We’re in a situation right now where I feel we’ve got to give a lot of credit to the teachers and the individual schools for coming up with different means of communication to make sure we can get to the students.”
Likewise, Norman said the workers and volunteers who are continuing to deliver meals to students in need deserve commendation.
“The volunteers have helped with the carrying and distribution,” Norman said. “The volunteers have been great. We’ll need more volunteers, we’re blessed to have people in our community that want to serve and help us.”