Education isn't what it used to be

School administrators give update on West Liberty school ‘return to learn’ plan after 10 days


After listening to complaints from parents about virtual learning, the West Liberty Community School District Board of Education learned more about the first 10 days of school in the four educational centers Monday, Sept. 21 at the regular school board meeting, held virtually from the school administration center.

The four school building administrators all gave updates on how the “Return to Learn” plan is working in the district, with 404 students getting educated totally on line during the COVID-19 pandemic while 937 are taking advantage of a 50/50 plan that puts students in the classroom one week and getting educated virtually the following week.

“None of us have been trained on how to teach virtual,” Elementary School Principal Jeni Laughlin told the board, pointing out things are a lot different for kids whether they’re in the classroom or getting virtual education over the internet.

Administrators pointed out that one of the big problems to date is the fact not everyone has been given a Chrome book computer for their virtual education experience, many students getting packets from teachers with assignments and homework responsibilities.

“None of us in education like that,” Laughlin said, noting it’s the only alternative at this point as teachers and students are “making it work.”

She said parents shouldn’t be too concerned this early in the school year about making sure their child is understanding what they’re learning, noting many are playing catch-up after the schools closed in mid-March and never returned for the remainder of the school year.

Laughlin, who has the largest number of students at 485 (128 electing for virtual education), said she’s been reminding parents that the first six, eight or maybe 12 weeks of the school year is typically a time to get kids back on track. “It’s okay if they don’t get it the first week,” she said, noting not all children learn that quickly. “It’s okay. We’ll get there.”

The veteran elementary principal said the first week when students went two days virtual and two days face-to-face produced “lots of e-mails and conversations” with parents, but she said the district is learning more and more each day. She said parents have to be “patient” in conquering the academic piece of the puzzle.

She said students are using more entrances and exits in the school than they’ve ever done before and the school has seen “great success” in cooperation of wearing masks.

Dr. Lindsay Meeker, who is new to the district as the director of the Early Learning Center, complimented her students in making sure they’re faces are covered and utilizing social distancing.

As the only school in the district to offer full-time classroom education for all 183 students at the same time (although 47 chose virtual), she said students are adapting quickly to social distancing rules and that teachers were quickly adapting as well.

“This has been a journey,” veteran Middle School principal Vicki Vernon reported, noting she’s never dealt with anything close to the changes the district had to make because of the pandemic.

“I have to say, I’m so proud to be part of this organization,” Vernon said, noting even in her school “everyone came together” to work to keep things not only safe, but doing what’s best for the students to give them the “best education possible.”

Educating 298 students including 68 virtually, she said teachers are adapting and revamping programs like “math studio” where students would work together in the past to solve problems. “Even if you’ve taught for 20 years, this is brand new,” Vernon said.

High school principal Brenda Arthur-Miller has 161 of her 375 students taking virtual education and says every high school student is equipped with a Chrome book. She said discipline is down and students are showing understanding and respect for the circumstances.

She said West Liberty has been fortunate to keep the virus away from the schools, but said that could change quickly as it has in other schools. She said the teachers are piling on a workload just as if it’s a normal school year, noting she even had a mid-day call from her own son about all his homework. “What are you doing calling me,” she said. “Get to work and get it done.”

She said students are learning to learn on line, but said parents and students all have to keep an open mind and be flexible on a moment’s notice.