School board hears of families’ trials with remote learning

by Kate Evans

Dawn Beal, Randy Beal and their son Cardin Beal, a Berkeley Springs High School student, addressed the Morgan County School Board at their December 15 meeting about some of the issues they’ve had with remote learning this year.  The Beals also offered their assistance to other parents and families struggling with similar issues.

With their positions in the community — Dawn Beal as Parks and Recreation Director and Randy Beal as a coach –other parents have sought them out and shared their difficulties with virtual learning.

Dawn and Randy Beal asked for consistency, transparency and better communication for the county’s  remote learning.

Dawn Beal said that no parents knew that the week before the December 15 meeting was midterms.  Grading   and scheduling are problems and so are deadlines.

Deadlines, schedules

Dawn Beal wanted to know when teachers’ deadlines are. Some virtual assignments are due at 5 p.m., others are due by Sunday at midnight.   She suggested making everything due at midnight.  With parent work schedules and dinner, 5 p.m. deadlines don’t work well.

Beal said some teachers are posting something every day though the kids only have the class every other day. Parents and grandparents aren’t getting notes or instruction.  Her husband Randy does the online component — not everyone updates information.  Beal said she’s asked their children’s schools to put everything in online calendars and to have consistent schedules.

No real teaching is going on, Beal said.  None of the Zoom lessons are teaching — it’s “Hi-how are you.”   There are worksheets, reading assignments and IXL.

She said that she’s run a Zoom meeting and knows that it can be recorded and used to teach.  Teachers can also teach lessons on You-Tube and post them.

“Kids need to see faces.  They’re bored,” Beal said.  She offered her help if anyone needs help to do You-Tube.

Beal said there was a late penalty on several assignments that weren’t turned in by the specified time but that were turned in later that same day. She’s gone to principals, teachers and had calls into the IT department to get issues straightened out.

Calendar, updates

Randy Beal said that he taught himself how to navigate Schoology and is pretty proficient in it.  He offered to volunteer to help parents with Schoology.

Sorting out what’s due on a specific day for every class is problematic. In a career, one uses a calendar to keep appointments straight, he said.  The way it’s set up now is too overwhelming for kids.

The middle school is different than the high school and updates are hard to locate. They’re still waiting weeks for grades to be updated, Randy Beal said.

Some assignments are not being graded in Gradebook and other assignments have to be handed in as hard copy instead of emailed.

He noted that they got an email at 1:23 p.m. one day about a Zoom class that had started at 1 p.m.

Cardin Beal said that teachers have all these things to show them but they don’t explain how to do it.  Teachers also aren’t grading things promptly — it takes some weeks for them to post grades.

Board comments

School board members John Rowland and Pete Gordon thanked the Beals for bringing their concerns and ideas to the board and hoped they could get things working better.

Board president Aaron Close asked about high school drop boxes and if the time frame of assignments due was being tracked.

Board member Laura Smith said her grandkids don’t have printers and have to take pictures of schoolwork and send them.  It won’t go through Schoology.

Board member Eric Lyda said they want students to be able to learn effectively and know that a lot of folks are struggling with all the glitches and problems with virtual learning.  Teachers need consistency from parents, too. Lyda said he knows there are solutions.

Superintendent weighs in

School Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said she has been telling teachers that Schoology and virtual learning are new –learning the programs and the apps is hard.  Virtual learning is hard for everyone.  Teachers are working around the clock.

Tuttle said she wanted to get more specifics and that school officials appreciated the Beals’ patience with remote learning.  The family gave some good tips, some of which they’re already doing.

“We’re working on it and are trying to get better,” Tuttle said.  She encouraged everyone to support each other.