Widmyer Elementary targets basic skills, provides student support

by Kate Evans
Widmyer Elementary Principal Rhett Beckman and Assistant Principal Ginnie Molnar discussed the school’s achievements and student support services at Widmyer’s local school improvement council (LSIC) presentation at the March 6 school board meeting which was held at the school.
Widmyer Elementary is a kindergarten through second grade school in Berkeley Springs.  Its official October enrollment was 468 students.
The school continues its focus on improving students’ reading and math proficiency and meeting children’s academic, social and emotional needs, said administrators.
Molnar said the school is very proud that they are finally making headway in student reading.  Some 78% of second graders were on or above benchmark proficiency as shown through Running Records mid-year reading assessment data, a rise from 64% at benchmark at the beginning of the year.
Molnar said they are doing everything they can to get books into kids’ hands.  They give out two books a month to every child in the school.  Lead Morgan County Schools Social Worker Hannah Stewart, whose children attend the school, said that her kids love the books and read them over and over again.
Molnar said a new reading series was adopted two years ago, plus the school had invested $100,000 in their leveled library reading books.  The Lexia reading program also builds letter sound awareness and the school has three Title I teachers doing interventions-one teacher for each grade.
The Lexia reading program provides individual instruction that targets learning gaps and specific skills that each student needs to meet their end of the year benchmark.
STAR reading assessments were new this year for first and second grade, Beckman said. He noted that Lexia measures phonics, sounding out words, sight words and position words while STAR measures reading comprehension and ability to read text pieces.
STAR mid-year math assessment data indicated that 63% of first graders and 54% of second graders were at benchmark level.
Molnar said STAR math assessments showed students as very proficient but STAR doesn’t give good feedback on what to reteach like Dreambox does.  Dreambox builds on skills that students need to move to the next level of mastery.
Students that need additional support in reading and math work with interventionists individually and in small group settings.
Title I School activities
Widmyer Elementary Title I activities include the Battle of the Books, book fairs, PJ Day, Read To Me, 50th and 100th Day activities, Star of the Week student recognitions and  Math Field Day.
Student support
School student support services include Students Assistance Team (SAT) meetings, guidance referrals, Title I services and contracted services.  Widmyer students receive school-based therapy once a week through a partnership with EastRidge Health Systems.
Social Worker Stewart said that the agency has become more open to school-based therapy as a way to meet kids needs and also provides it one day a week at the  intermediate school and a half day at Paw Paw Schools. Widmyer also has a social work intern.
Molnar said the PASS program is serving 20 students.  Some 60 students get backpacks of food to take home every weekend through the Morgan County Backpack Program.  Other student support includes team meetings, parent-teacher conferences and faculty support for families in crisis.
Widmyer needs
Principal Beckman said that the school roof continues to leak in several locations creating ceiling issues throughout the building. More outdoor lighting is also needed for the parking lots, especially in the back of the building.
Eight more Smart Boards are needed to cover specials and special education so every classroom has one, Molnar said.