Adjusting to distance learning in the WPCSD

Staff Writer

For the first time since the 1970s, schools in West Point didn't begin until September 1, but the classrooms and halls are silent and empty. There are no children reading aloud, laughing, playing on the playground or hanging around with friends. The fall school year in 2020 is completely different from any other. The West Point Consolidated School District has implemented distance learning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The first day went well with both parents and children," Church Hill Principal, Cindy Donahoo said. "There were a few parents who called because they were not able to connect to the CANVAS platform. But we were happy to talk to them. We may have not know exactly what the issue was, but we let them know it was OK. We were going to do this together."

Church Hill has not distributed Chromebooks to the students due to the CARES ACT funds for distance learning have not arrived yet.
"I didn't want to give the Chromebooks we have, to just a few of the students," Donahoo said. "That just wouldn't be right. But all of the children have packets with workbooks and assignments. If they need help from a teacher they can do that with a smartphone."

Donahoo said Monday was D-Day, Distance Learning Day. No one knew exactly what to expect, but it went very well for the first day.
"Here at Church Hill, we had found out we would be doing distance learning in July," Donahoo said. "I was not familiar with CANVAS, so we put together a team of teachers to use the platform and become proficient using it. That helped a lot."
If the teachers had waited to find out how CANVAS worked, the first day of school would not have run as smoothly as it did.
"I am so thankful I have teachers who were willing to rise to the challenge and take what they are given," Donahoo said. "I am so proud of my teachers. All they want is to teach these students what they need to learn."

It was expected for the schools to experience glitches on the first few days of a completely new way to learn. Donahoo and principals in the WPCSD all understand the concerns of parents, especially if they have trouble logging in for their children, but parents are welcome to call the schools if they need some extra help.

South Side Elementary Principal, Casey Gluesenkamp, said it has been better than she expected since school started on Monday.
"This will never replace face-to-face learning," Gluesenkamp said. "But we have been doing well, so far. We have had teachers and members of the community who have volunteered their personal devices so the children can have the technology they need. We are also waiting for the ability to purchase the Chromebooks for all of our students."

In partnership with a generous grant from 4-County Electric Power Association, Bright Horizons and donations, children have what they need to distance learn at South Side.
"For those who have volunteered to use their own devices, they will be provided with a Chromebook when they are available." Glusenkamp said. "Many of the local churches that offer child care are helping with the school and providing WiFi."
The main thing the WPCSD is trying to do, is to keep the students healthy and safe, while meeting their academic needs.