Not only here in West Virginia, but school officials all across the country are starting to accept their new normal — performing work from home amid the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. In times of uncertainty West Virginia school teachers, administrators and service personnel are choosing to react, rather than panic, by assuring their students that they are still getting a quality education. 

Raleigh County's Crescent Elementary School, nestled in a subdivision of Beckley, has been making waves within the last week on still communicating with its students via social media and other online resources, seeing as how schools are still closed until at least March 27. The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) has not yet made an announcement on if that date will be extended. 

Luckily, the current generation of students were born in a technology wave. For the most part, the current generation doesn't know a life without it, so teachers felt this was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of what is right at their fingertips. 

Kimberly Dalton, a third grade teacher at Crescent, has been communicating with her students via Google Classroom — a free web service developed by Google for schools — and has plans in the works for this upcoming week. Reading, language arts, and social studies are Dalton's area of expertise, and one thing she will do is read a short story to her students daily, who then have to take the story and practice what they learned in class before the shutdown. 

Google Classroom is available on student iPads supplied by the school system, which students were able to take home during the shutdown. Through Google Classroom, students are able to watch Dalton's video, reply to her saying they watched it, and interact with her accordingly. 

"One thing we've been working on is finding text evidence. So after reading the story, they're asked questions which require them to dive back into the story and find the answers," Dalton explained.

Dalton added she will also be working with students on their cursive handwriting this week, since the concept is good to practice when someone has more time on their hands. 

Teachers, parents and guardians are also able to use the "Remind" application while out of school — a way to message and communicate with others. Dalton said this gives them the opportunity to stay in touch with parents, and answer their questions if they need any help as well. 

"I think it's just really important we keep their (the students) skills sharp. We don't want them losing what they've learned so far," Dalton said. "It's important we maintain contact. As teachers, we are often one of the few safe places for students, and they really do find us comfortable to talk to. We've been told that throughout this whole thing, they're so glad to still hear our voices, share any problems they may have, and still get the food they need as well." 

Raleigh County's Superintendent David Price said cooks in schools throughout the county had prepared and served nearly 45,000 meals for their students since Sunday. 

Katie Cooper, another third grade teacher at Crescent who teaches math and science, said with packets she sent home to her students last week, she's been able to continue working with them on word problems, telling time, multiplication and division, and fractions. 

"We have no doubt are students are feeling stressed and worrisome," Cooper said. "So we're just trying to keep things as normal as we can for them. Allowing them to still see us is a part of that, even if it's through a screen.

"We want to do our best to have them look past the doom and gloom going on in the world today, and still get everything they need." 

Other teachers, such as Shannon Wooton and Marybeth Garcia, are using other applications like Zoom — a remote video conferencing service — to reach their preschool students during this time. 

The school's main Facebook page, "Crescent Elementary School," has also been a highlight for students to visit during this time. The school's principal, Theresa Lewis, has even posted videos to the page, giving students random math problems to work on, and has even said the Pledge of Allegiance. The page has also been a place for teachers to get together and show students projects they can work on at home, explanations of the term "social distancing" and a place where teachers can simply film "I miss you" videos. 

"It is so important for children to have schedules and routines. Our way of reaching out to students through social media gives them a part of that routine they're missing right now," Lewis said. "Schools provide children with social interaction with their peer groups, and it's hard for them to get that right now.

"With the technology we have right now, kids are still able to interact with one another and talk with their friends and teachers, and that's so important. Children just want to learn, and while we can't teach them anything new right now, we can touch on what they already know and give them projects and lessons to keep their brains sharp." 

Although it's not yet been announced if students will go back to school after March 27, Lewis said her school plans to post a "Spirit Week" project to their Facebook page soon, where students can take on the silly projects or outfits designated for that day, and share their photos to the page. 

"Our page is public, and we'd love if that reached beyond just our students," Lewis said. "We'd want any and every student to take part!" 

— Email: jnelson@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @jhatfieldRH

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