To call the Coronavirus pandemic a major disruption on education is probably one of the biggest understatements of the decade. Ever since March 2020, schools across the country have closed their doors and attempted to learn remotely, with highly mixed results. When it worked, it worked fine. When it did not, however, the results were disastrous, as can be seen up in Fairfax County. 

Here in Westmoreland, meanwhile, the return to in-person learning has been a slow one, with the attempt to use a hybrid learning schedule quickly canceled in favor of virtual learning after a spike in Coronavirus cases took place. Before everyone went away for the Christmas break, Superintendent Dr. Michael Perry gave one final update on the matter at the final School Board meeting of 2020.

According to Dr. Perry, the virtual learning capability of the schools and instructors has come a long way compared to back when everyone suddenly shifted to remote learning in March.

“Our teachers have both training and experience, and they’re doing an incredible job,” he stated. “Because of this and a spike in transmissions, teachers have the option to work from home at this time. It was good to see that we could make that quick pivot.”

The difficulties involved with virtual learning have not gone ignored in Westmoreland County. At Montross Middle School in particular, steps were being taken to help the students that did not take well to the new education format.

“They allowed their faculty to make grade-level selections of students based on class capacity,” Dr. Perry explained. “They contacted the parents and guardians of the students to get approval, addressed transportation issues with Mr. Rich, and as a result, came up with a targeted population that weren’t succeeding in our virtual or hybrid plans. We went out before we were able to bring them to school, but it was a great process, and we shared it with our administrators, who will start using this process going forth to look at different populations within their schools.”

The school division’s health plan remains in effect, ranging from the formation of a group to thoroughly monitor any reports of Coronavirus cases, to obtaining PPE, and maintaining a healthy environment. The plan is on the division’s website.

“There are procedures in place, and we do follow them,” Dr. Perry concluded.

On Monday, January 11, the school board held an emergency meeting where they discussed the increasing local COVID-19 cases. At the meeting, it was decided that schools would remain virtual for at least the next six weeks.