Education, Latest News

Preston Schools revamps virtual learning plan

KINGWOOD — Preston County Schools has revamped its virtual schools plan.

All virtual students will now be assigned to a classroom, and all teachers will do videos and lessons that include virtual students.

No teachers will be hired just to do virtual schooling.

Virtual students will follow the same curriculum as other Preston students, not that provided by WV Virtual Learning, a state program.

And students no longer have to commit to a year of virtual schooling. Elementary and middle school students will be able to return to the classroom, if they wish, at the end of any grading period. High school students can only change at the end of a semester.

Preston Superintendent Steve Wotring said Monday the changes were prompted by parents’ comments, staffing concerns and a desire to provide the best possible virtual school curriculum for the approximately 790 students (about 20% of total enrollment) who have signed up for virtual schools in Preston.

“We can only free up four [teaching] positions, six if we really stretched and moved things around for solely virtual positions,” Wotring told the board of education.

“Plus at this point in the game, there are no teachers out there to fill the positions,” the superintendent said. It’s a nationwide problem, he noted.

And he thinks WV Virtual Learning ”doesn’t know what’s about to hit them,” when statewide sign ups for virtual schools are complete. He gave the example of Cabell County, where 2,700 students signed up to go virtual.

Preston needs a curriculum that we are not ashamed to put our name to, Wotring said, and Preston teachers can deliver it.
“It’s tough. It’s going to require an amazing amount of preparation or planning up front,” he said. “I’m asking a lot of [teachers], but they can do it.”

Teachers will already be doing a virtual component, utilizing the laptops and iPads being distributed to all students. Teachers can video lessons, making sure no students are included in the videos, and put them up with software already available to them.

“We’re providing the curriculum and basic instruction,” for virtual students, he said.

Formerly parents were told they would have to commit to a year of virtual learning. “That was the biggest complaint parents had. We’ve heard that complaint and we acted,” to change it, Wotring said.

Assigning virtual students to classrooms and including them in the total enrollment of those classes means there is a space for them to come back to the physical classroom.

Board member Jeff Zigray asked if teachers will have to take phone calls at home from parents of virtual students? They’ll need to let parents know when they are available, and we can’t require more than eight hours a day, Wotring said.

Whose phones will they take calls on, Zigray asked? We can’t require teachers to use their personal phones. Some classrooms have phones. This still needs to be worked out, as do many details.

But bottom line, Wotring said, he still believes school will start with all students working at home and no one in the building. But that’s the governor’s call, and meanwhile we have to plan for all possibilities, he concluded.

TWEET @DominionPostWV