HAMLIN — One of the less talked about impacts COVID-19 has had is on West Virginia’s Adult Education program, which, like its public and collegiate counterparts, has had to make some major adjustments as the global pandemic continues to disrupt everyday life.
The program offers adults a variety of educational services including high school equivalency diploma (GED) readiness, TABE assessment, ACT prep, career and life skills, Microsoft Office certification, basic understanding of several subjects and more. The program is targeted at individuals in all walks of life — from someone seeking to obtain their GED to those wanting to brush up on language or math skills.
Thanks to both state and federal funding, courses are offered entirely for free in nearly every county. Enrollment is open year-round, and instruction is tailored to specific needs.
Chanda Perry is the primary adult education instructor in Lincoln County. Since the beginning of the pandemic, her classroom at 353 Walnut St. in Hamlin has operated a bit differently than it used to.
“It has created a lot of obstacles for us and our students,” Perry said. “I’ve had to measure everything in the classroom to make sure everybody is six feet apart. Everyone has their own trash can and their own sanitizer. Everyone has to wear a mask and be screened before they come into the classroom. When they are here, if we can have in-person instruction, they have to go to the restroom individually. They have to take a sanitizing wipe to wipe down everything before and after they leave the restroom, so there’s a lot of strict protocols with that.”
Additionally, use of refrigerators and microwaves is now prohibited, and classroom size for in-person instruction is limited to eight people. Prior to the pandemic, Perry said her classroom averaged about 15 or more people.
For someone uncomfortable with in-person instruction or otherwise unable to attend it due to other factors like class size capacity, virtual enrollment and instruction is offered. Perched on a table in the front of Perry’s classroom is a laptop positioned to show her instruction for those enrolled in virtual classes.
“I can get them on a Zoom meeting, and it’s pointing at my whiteboard,” Perry said, “so I can still do virtual instruction with them, and I can still do examples on the board. It would really be just like they were sitting in the classroom.”
For students in the program without internet access, Perry can send paper packets, which are in a pre-stamped envelope that can then be sent back to her once completed.
“The biggest challenge is not losing what they’ve learned,” Perry said, “and especially with math, that one-on-one interaction, it’s a use it or lose it, and when they don’t have that face-to-face interaction with me, they tend to fall back on their math. Before we shut down in the spring, I had two girls that literally the next day, they had to take a task readiness assessment and pass it with me before I could schedule it with a state examiner. Literally the next day, they were supposed to take their task readiness assessment and they shut us down, so then they had to wait months, and then we had to come in and then refresh on everything that they had lost over the past few months. That’s frustrating for them.”
The Adult Education program closely follows the guidelines in place for the public school system. Per Gov. Jim Justice’s orders, in-person instruction is typically suspended if the county is red on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resource’s daily tracking map.
“We are separate from the public school system, but we have tried to follow that,” Perry said. “I would have in-person instruction up to orange, but when the numbers started to spike, they told us to back up and not have in-person instruction if the county was orange or red, so now we have gone back, per Governor’s orders, that it is in red only. We follow, kind of, what the high schools are doing. If the county is red, we do strictly virtual instruction.”
Perry typically teaches from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m.-noon on Fridays. She is the only person in the building, so every Friday afternoon after instruction, she reserves about three hours to deep clean and sterilize the entire building.
Logan County’s Adult Education program has two class sites — Ralph R. Willis Career and Technical Center, taught by Michael York, and at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, taught by DeShawna Toler. For more information about York’s class, call 304-752-4687 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; or for more information about Toler’s class, call 304-792-7098 or email Deshawna.email@example.com.
For more information about West Virginia Adult Education and for a list of class sites in each county, visit www.wvadulted.org.
For Lincoln County students, another part-time instructor, Sheila Burns, also teaches courses in various parts of the county. Burns is available at the following locations:
noon-4 p.m. Monday: Day Report Center, Lincoln County Corrections Center.
5 p.m.-8 p.m. Monday: Hamlin Public Library.
11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday: Alum Creek Library.
9 a.m.-noon Thursday: Guyan River Public Library, Branchland.
Perry said Burns is also available from 3-5 p.m. on Tuesdays as a make-up day.
“That’s really good for somebody if they work and they want to come in and work a couple of hours and work toward this,” Perry said. “That’s just something also, I’m not the only game in town. She also does that, because not everybody has transportation here, so if somebody lives on the other end of the county and they’re closer to Alum Creek, that’s easier access to them. We try every way that we can think of to be available and do what we can do.”