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Ohio County Schools Updates Virtual Learning Policy

Photo by Joselyn King Walt Saunders, assessment and federal programs director for Ohio County Schools, details to board of education members changes made to virtual school policy for the upcoming school year.

WHEELING — Policy changes in Ohio County Schools now allow virtual learners to return to in-person classes in school at mid-semester if they so wish.

Classroom learners, though, who decide a month into the school year they want to go to virtual will not be permitted to do so until the start of the next semester, according to Walt Saunders, assessment and federal programs director for Ohio County Schools.

Saunders detailed to board of education members this week changes made to the policy for the upcoming school year.

He said last year county school officials had a policy that students and their parents choosing to do virtual learning commit to a full semester of at-home learning.

The policy is now being changed, and virtual learners can return to the classrooms during the semester if they so wish. Their virtual learning grades will be averaged with those in the classroom, according to Saunders.

But those students electing to remain in the classroom cannot decide after the semester starts that they want to be a virtual learner, according to Saunders.

“You can’t opt in after three weeks and say I want to go virtual now,” he said. “The material has already started for the home school year.

“The option to come back to (in-person) school is there. The option in October to say ‘I want to go virtual today’ is not. You have to wait for the next semester.”

A deadline for students declaring they will be virtual students for the semester has yet to be determined, but will be prior to the start of each semester.

These virtual learners, however, will have to show effort in their studies if they want to continue to learn at home, according to Saunders.

“If you are not performing or not doing anything the first few out, we will take you out,” he said. Those students will be required to return to in-person traditional classrooms.

As of right now, there is no platform for virtual learning in Ohio County Schools. At home students instead will participate in the West Virginia Virtual Schools platform.

“If we get into a position where we have to go remote again dictated by the state, the county’s platform would come back up and we would have students working remotely,” Saunders explained.

Virtual school policy shouldn’t be confused with remote school policy, he explained. “Virtual” school is when a student voluntarily opts to be educated at home. “Remote” schooling, meanwhile, takes place when traditional school facilities are forced to close and education must continue at home.

School officials are confident the best education is that which takes place one-on-one with students in the classroom.

“After a long, lengthy discussion, we believe children learn best through in-person instruction at school,” Superintendent Kim Miller said.

“We have spent a lot of time discussing the pros and cons, and determining what is best for our children,” she said.

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