As the state continues its shutdown over the Coronavirus, Westmoreland County’s School Board held another online meeting this month. With many places closed, there’s been a fair bit of confusion regarding school itself. At the recent meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michael Perry gave a presentation to the board on what he called continuity of instruction and meals, which was meant to clear up a few misconceptions.
“At any other time, I’d have [Assistant Superintendent Cathy Rice] make the presentation, since she is our director of instruction” he commented. “But, in a recent meeting, I was very surprised to hear an elected official state that they thought school was shut down. Schools are not shut down; students just can’t enter the building, and this greatly complicates the work of schools, since now we have to deliver the work to their homes.”
According to Dr. Perry, school systems all over the commonwealth have been having difficulty with the situation, including Fairfax, Chesterfield, and Hamilton, as they try to get instructions and assignments to their students. This led to him detailing some of the hurdles faced by the education system at the moment, and how they were being jumped.
“First of all, you have to talk about continuity of instruction,” he continued. “All our teachers still have office hours, [10 a.m. to 1 p.m.] whereby students or parents can contact them to get help or information on their assignments. Our teachers are not in the building; they can go there to get supplies they need, but they are working from home.
“Many of the schools have virtual faculty meetings now. Some of them use different platforms, but they are meeting to discuss and talk about instructional presentations for our students, and again, if needed, they do come to the schools to get resources or other materials.”
Additionally, the students are getting feedback from their instructors whenever they call in or conference with them, meaning that continuity of instruction is still alive and well in Westmoreland County’s public schools.
The other key function of schools at this period is the school lunches. According to Dr. Perry, during March, there were 10,248 students served, with even more this month.
“Before you say ‘We don’t have that many students!’ I’ve got supporting documentation that shows on a given day how many are served,” Dr. Perry explained. “As of April? You’re looking at 12,089 meals, and we’re now only halfway through the month.”
Overall, there were over 20,000 meals, both breakfast and lunch, served in March. As of this week, that number has surpassed 24,000.
The WCPS system currently employs 19 workers, with 3 substitutes, working at 3 sites to get hot meals to the students, which are carried to the students by 14 bus drivers, 3 substitutes, as well as several volunteers, right to their doorstops. Plenty of steps have also been taken to keep risks low, as the people on the buses are given masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
“Furthermore, anyone who is sick or was around someone who was sick, we asked them to self-quarantine for ten days. They’ve done a fantastic job on that,” Dr. Perry concluded.
In the end, it’s a relief to hear that the school system has been able to adapt to the circumstances, as well as keep its students fed, not just with the bare minimum, but actual cooked meals. If that’s not dedication to their students, then we’ll probably never know what is.