Wood County virtual school enrollment grows

PARKERSBURG — More than a thousand Wood County students have enrolled in virtual school for this fall, and officials say they expect those numbers to increase.

Superintendent Will Hosaflook updated the Wood County Board of Education on virtual school enrollment Tuesday, but said parents still have many questions about how virtual school differs from regular enrollment and remote learning.

“They think the virtual school is what we did last spring,” he said. “It is not.”

The virtual school program is an online program through the West Virginia Department of Education, Hosaflook said, and is a full-semester program that is as challenging or even more challenging that in-person classes.

“It is a very rigorous program,” Hosaflook said. “It takes a very disciplined student to be successful.”

Board member Ron Tice asked what options would be available to families that enroll but later wish to have their student in a more traditional school setting. Hosaflook said due to staffing considerations, families only have until Sept. 22 to switch to in-person classes.

“Students will have 14 days” to change their minds, he said. “If not, they have to finish the semester in virtual school.”

Hosaflook also said some confusion remains on the difference between virtual school, blended learning and remote learning.

When the schools were forced to close in the spring due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, the district turned to a remote learning format. Through both paper and electronic lessons sent home with students, lessons relied more on retaining existing skills than new material.

During the summer officials have created an online program that allows for new learning, Hosaflook said. Blended learning, which is a combination of in-person classes and online lessons, will act the same as completely in-person classes, presenting new material and introducing new skills.

“It is not a slower format,” Hosaflook said. “We are moving forward this year.”

Hosaflook said likewise, if the school system has to move to full remote learning again due to a county- or state-wide schools shutdown, the classes would continue to move forward and introduce new material.

“Going to remote learning … the governor makes that decision, not us,” he said.

All students in K-12 will be issued iPads prior to the start of school, he said.

Officials also are hoping to receive a grant for nearly $1 million which would allow the school system to purchase about 1,700 wifi hotspots. The hotspot device, about the size of a hockey puck, relies on cell phone service to provide wifi for nearby devices.

The grant would allow for a 10-month contract on the hotspots, “enough to get us through the school year,” Hosaflook said.

Wifi access also is available outside of any of the district’s school buildings, he said.

But Hosaflook said some Wood County students live in areas without cell service and would not benefit from the hotspot device. In those cases, he said, officials will work with area cable companies to provide Internet services.

“We have to get all students access for remote learning to be successful,” Hosaflook said.

For more information, visit www.woodcountyschoolswv.com or use the Wood County Schools app.

Contact Michael Erb at merb@newsandsentinel.com.


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