Pocahontas Students Forced to Struggle with Remote Learning
The Pocahontas County Schools suspended in-school classes after the November 28th school education’s virus map labeled Pocahontas County as being in an “orange” status where it still remains.
We talked with School Superintendent Terrence Beam to learn more about this, and about how the students are coping with remote learning.
Mr. Beam, do you have any idea when the kids will be able to return to the classrooms?
“Today is Tuesday the 8th and I was in contact with the Health department this morning, just to get a heads-up of where we possibly could be on Saturday” Beam said. “Obviously it is too early for them to commit to a certainty, but it doesn’t look good for this week going into next week. We were hoping to get the kids back before Christmas break, but it is looking more and more doubtful. So, we’re orange and on remote learning and it is what it is.”
How is the remote learning working out?
“Well, I think it is working better than it did in the spring, but there is still a lot of issues. We have a lot of the same issues we had in the spring, for example the availability of Internet in some of our homes, but we do have, I think, a little more commitment from our students to get their work done, and the teachers have, of course, had more training on how to deliver those remote instructions, so I think it is going better than it did in the spring. But it is never going to be the same as face-to-face instruction, no matter how much we work at it.”
Is there a lot of kids who don’t have access to devices or to the internet?
“Yea, we have a lot of kids who don’t have access and we have not been able to reach out to all of the kids in our school system that we would like to. We have missed a few kids, simply because they don’t have Internet or a phone or devices of any kind, and they’re just out there on their own, and that’s sad. We did apply for the USDA Grant, which would provide devices for all of our students, K through twelve. We applied for this back in the early summer or late spring. We were supposed to have heard something by mid-September, then it was mid October, then it was November, now it is mid-December and we have still not heard. But, I do know we have not been turned down for this. There is a lot of grants out there that they are sorting through. We wish they would speed up the process a little and let us know one way or the other. We hate to go out and invest in a lot of devices that we are going to get paid for by the Federal Government.”
What’s the latest numbers on the Corona-Virus cases in the schools?
“Well, the latest numbers I got from Nurse Jenny (Friel) was on last Friday, At that time we had twenty-six total students in quarantine. Now, quarantine doesn’t mean they have Corona Virus, it just means they have been exposed to someone who may or may not have Corona virus. We had one staff member who tested positive and we had two others who we released on Friday. Since then, we hade some more employees go into quarantine. A lot of those are coming off on Thursday, which may help our numbers just a little bit. But Nurse Jenny contacted me this afternoon -about half an hour ago actually- and said that now, for the first time, we have two students who have tested positive. They are members of the same family, they attend different schools, but they have tested positive.”
Beam said that even if Pocahontas County had been allowed by the map last week to be open to the students, there were too many teachers in quarantine to be able cover the classes in at least some of the schools.
Beam added that there will be a superintendents’ conference call Wednesday morning. Beam said he would keep us informed if there are any important developments at that superintendents’ meeting, and of course we will let you know.