WPS teachers face learning curve with new teaching platform

  • Weatherford Public Schools

Weatherford Principals all said their teachers are facing a learning curve with the new Schoology platform but are rising the meet the challenge during the school board meeting Monday evening.

“We have phenomenal teachers but moving all their normal curriculum into Google Drive is a monumental task,” East Elementary Principal Brad Howl said.

Weatherford High School Principal Garrett Smith said his teachers occasionally get frustrated with the program but have been doing a great job. Right now one of their biggest challenges is trying to transfer grades from the PowerSchool platform into Schoology because this aspect of the programs does not mesh well.

Weatherford Middle School Principal Doug Gunselman said he is proud of how his teachers have worked hard to learn the new software.

“A lot of schools who implement this probably take a whole summer to do it, but by the time we got our hands on this, we didn’t have nearly that long,” he said.

Another benefit of the program has been swapping hard copies for digital, which means the office does not have to hold large stacks of books and worksheets for parents to pick up. The school just needs to make sure the student can log into the platform.

Burcham Elementary Principal Brooke Brown said their Schoology needs look a little bit different, but Burcham teachers have been jumping in and designing their classrooms. Those who learn certain areas of the platform share that knowledge with their fellow teachers, making the learning process a bit faster.

“I think once we get some training from the Schoology people it will be a lot of Q&A because they know the basics,” Brown said.

Both Smith and Gunselman said discipline has been close to nothing at their schools. They believe it is because students are excited to be back in school and do not want to be sent home.

Parent/Teacher Conferences are September 28. Faculty is working to set up a time to meet with parents by phone or Zoom. To accommodate this change, teachers will work 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day.

The principals also had a few things to share about their individual sites, which can be found below.

Weatherford High School

WHS currently has 566 students enrolled, which is 25 less than last year and less than Smith was expecting this year.

He said the all Chromebooks should be distributed by the end of the week. There were delays due to backordered cases.

Activities and sports have started. Although this year will be different, Smith said it has been fantastic so far.

Weatherford Middle School

Currently, WMS has 512 students enrolled with 38 virtual students.

“You can feel it too because we were at about 540 last year, so the hallways aren’t feeling as crowded,” Gunselman said.

He expressed appreciation for local businesses donating bottled water for the students to use until the new filling stations were installed. The delay was caused by a backorder.

Students have adjusted to the “new norm” of being extra sanitary and helping clean desks before the next period. The custodians have been working hard cleaning bathroom and sanitizing classrooms between periods.

“There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes to keep our kids safe, and I really appreciate everyone doing it,” Gunselman said.

Masks have not been disruptive to the learning process. Branded WPS masks are for sale at WMS.

ACT Aspire interim testing begins in the next 2 weeks. With the help of the Weatherford Police Department, the school took aerial footage of the streets nearby where Gen. Thomas Stafford grew up. It is a gift for his 90th birthday.

East/West Elementary

As of Monday, West had 340 students but Principal Robyn Randol said they were enrolling more daily. East Principal Brad Howl did not share an enrollment number.

Both East and West have implemented “circles,” a Project AWARE tool, every morning in each classroom. The process starts with a quick mindfulness activity to focus the students and then a short time to allow each student to express how they are feeling on a scale of one to five and why they are feeling that way.

“All the stories they go running to tell you all day get told during this time,” Randol said. “It also created empathy in those who are listening.”

Howl said another benefit of the circles is coming to understand the actions of an “unruly” child who refuses to cooperate throughout the day.

“When we take the time to do circles, not only do the students develop compassion but they also learn to trust and share with their friends,” he said. “It also helps the teacher understand where the child is coming from that day.” Fifth grade students

have begun Sold Out Leadership Lab meeting with Mike Conn. Right now, they are trying to find a plan for the high school leadership students to join but do not have a plan yet.

West had ACT Aspire testing all week. School pics along with vision and hearing tests are next week.

Third grade Aspire testing has not begun because the tests are not ready, but all students a have had their reading tests.

The schools have received a lot of support from the nearby churches in the form of parking and Sonic gift cards. The churches also are the designated “safe place” in case of emergency.

Burcham Elementary

Burcham received its sensory path stencils, which were bought with the Project AWARE Grant money. Teachers applied the paths on the playground Friday. These paths will be used to calm and re-focus overwhelmed students during the school day as well as fun during recess.

Principal Brooke Brown thanked the community and the Weatherford Daily News for support during the Carnival fundraiser.

“I never would have imagined we would get as much as we did,” she said. “We were very blessed by it.”

She also thanked Weatherwood for supplying lunch for teachers one day. It was much appreciated.

The school ran its fire and other safety drills with help from the Weatherford Fire Department, so students and teacher know where to go.