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Teachers say engagement should continue for rest of school year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Classroom teachers throughout West Virginia are reaching their students in various ways while outside of their classrooms because of the coronavirus.

Wayne County 4th Grade teacher Amber McCoy has been reading to her kids on Facebook and she’s set up a time for them to read back to her what they’ve written in their journals. She’s also been teaching various lessons through social media.

“Is the instruction that they’re receiving as good as it would be in the classroom? It’s not. But any time we can keep the students engaged and keep them from regressing it’s a win for us,” McCoy said during an appearance Monday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Monongalia County middle school teacher Heather Deluca-Nestor said her county was prepared for distance learning through its Arctic Academy system but the length of the closure has tested the program.

“Mon County is very fortunate, because of our levy we have one-to-one Chromebooks with all our students K-12,” Deluca-Nestor said Monday on “Talkline.” “However, I think only second grade and up has taken those Chromebooks home.”

When the closure was announced they were prepared with five days of lesson plans. They quickly doubled that total and made sure students could work offline if connectivity is an issue. Nestor says as the closure continued they realized changes had to be made.

“The main focus is to reach our kids, to talk to them and make sure they’re ok,” Deluca-Nestor, who teaches at South Middle School said. “These times are not normal and we want to create some normalcy. They’re used to seeing us everyday and we’re used to seeing them.”

She said they want to prevent as much anxiety as they can by keeping the lines of communication open.

Woodrow Wilson High School Social Studies teacher John Quesenberry has been able to reach his Beckley area students in a number of ways. He said they’ve had afternoon discussions on various topics.

Quesenberry said he’d love to be able to return to school but if not, he wants to continue the remote learning opportunities.

“I definitely don’t think we should shut it down–that’s just giving up on them,” Quesenberry said on “Talkline.” “Even if we were only to reach a handful that’s a handful of kids who are going to get something out of it. That are going to improve.”

Gov. Jim Justice’s closure order currently goes through April 30. A bipartisan group of leading lawmakers has called for Justice to order schools closed for the rest of the year. Justice has said on multiple occasions he supports a return to the schools buildings if possible, even if it’s only for a few weeks.

Quesenberry said that would be welcomed news.

“There are some activities that I wanted to do in class that I can’t really do online,” he said. “Just for logistics it would be good for collecting books, collecting iPads and if seniors could have their graduation and if they don’t they could pick up their diplomas.”

McCoy said maybe the buildings won’t reopen this school year but the engagement should continue.

“For me the biggest reason that we need to continue the school year is because school is a safe place for a lot of students and it guarantees someone is going to be checking in with those students,” she said.

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