Laptop initiative supplies BSHS students with tech access, support

by Kate Evans

More than 600 Berkeley Springs High School students in Morgan County are tackling their homework and school assignments on school-provided computers this year.

High School Principal Mitch Nida the school has 642 students this year. The school now has Chromebooks for every student. It’s a big initiative that can bring a whole array of classroom strategies and more arenas for learning, Nida said. Students can take the Chromebooks home and can pull assignments using Google Classroom and send them in.

Students don’t have to have the internet at home to use the laptops. They can download their work as soon as they get to school, he said.   Chromebook usage is all filtered through the county office to prevent students from accessing inappropriate content or websites.

Nida said it’s instant communication and easy access. Teachers can upload links and articles for students.

IXL software

Nida said the school was able to get IXL software for math and English and they’re especially excited about it with the Chromebooks and online resources. Teachers and staff can do diagnostics on each student and the software has modules that go back to third grade. Teachers can assign remediation, on-level assignments and enrichment work.

School staff is seeing a lot of progress with students using IXL, he said. Kids enjoy it, teachers love it. The program is targeted for each student and their needs and has standards included that are directly related to the SAT exam. Nida said they had IXL a few years ago for math but now it’s back for both subjects.

School climate & culture

Nida said the school is focusing on ideas from renowned leaders in school culture reform and will do a staff survey to help identify areas of need so the school can target certain areas to make it a more productive culture.

School climate – attitudes of staff and students — can change from day to day and be changed more easily. School culture is the values, beliefs and personality of a school and is harder to change. School climate and school culture aren’t interchangeable, he said.

Berkeley Springs High School has six new teachers this year. They added a new Career and Technical Education information technology position so that two teachers are now teaching the course.

Heather Klockmann is Berkeley Springs High School’s social worker at half-day, 20 hours a week. At the state Department of Education meeting, principals said they needed more social workers to help students.

The high school has two and a half counselors-Candice Pennington, Savannah Smith and Aerial Dobnak, who works at the high school .60 (Monday through Thursday mornings and all day Friday) and .40 at Warm Springs Middle School.

PSAT/SAT

The high school has been preparing kids for the SAT exam and ninth and tenth grade students to take the practice SAT test in the springs. They’ll prepare the test as a benchmark for each student to see the level they’re on and what they need to work on to get them up to speed, Nida said.

Blue Ridge programs

The high school has five or six seniors in the lab technician and cybersecurity courses at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, Nida said.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids,” he said.

Kids are talking about taking the classes more, which gets the interest going. Nida expects more students will be interested in the programs next year. Secretary of State Mac Warner spoke at the school about the need for cybersecurity professionals. The high school wants to continue to provide these opportunities to local students.

Nida said they doubled the theater class sections this year and had their first school play. Theater teacher Amy Taylor is working with the Benedum Foundation to take the theater classes to see professional drama.

English teacher Robert Dugan’s creative writing class publishes their work on the website that they run. Forensic science teacher John Sheranko does case studies and crime scene investigations with his students.

Another big effort this year has been increasing school pride, Nida said.

They’ve been doing more fun events like the faculty versus students volleyball game. The school had the Homecoming parade and each class made floats. They held pep rallies and a bonfire with a great turnout. The Star Theater was opened for a showing of “Grease” for any student that wanted to go. The movie was the Homecoming theme.

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