DMS incorporates virtual learning

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, school has been a little off. There are people going virtual, which has left an impact on class sizes.

Rosie Castle and her STEM students continue to learn in the face of the ongoing pandemic. Castle is one of many teachers at DMS who have virtual students this school year. (Isaac Pain)

Virtual classes for many students started Tuesday. This is different than the end of the 2019-20 school year, when all Oklahoma schools moved to distance learning for the last quarter of the year.

Instead, Duncan has purchased new software to push out to students who have chosen the virtual route. That curriculum will tie in closely to what students are learning in person.

Reagan Hicks, who is now an eighth-grader, went virtual this year after attending Duncan Middle School for the last two years.

The classes Hicks takes virtually include math, English and social studies.

The addition of virtual classes has caused additional stress for some DMS teachers this year. STEM teacher Rosie Castle said she has four eighth-graders who have gone virtual this year.

“I think when we come to school, we get more done,” Castle said. “But I can understand people going virtual.”

Although she understands the need for virtual school, Castle said she prefers seeing the students in person. She said she is working to keep her classroom clean for students who attend in person.

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Concerns about social distancing have led many students to go virtual.

Hicks said she doesn’t have to eat school food and she is still able to be involved in various extracurricular activities, including voice lessons, play writing, dance and art.

“I don’t like doing virtual classes because I like having other people around,” Hicks said.

But with the addition of virtual school, classes taking place at Duncan Middle School have been smaller this school year.

Castle said the STEM classes have had about 70 virtual students collectively.

“I like teaching big and small,” Castle said. “It just depends on the time; it’s fun either way.”

She said her biggest class this year is 23 students.

“Having a smaller class is a positive thing to me,” Castle said. “I get to know my students faster than having a big class.”

There are over 500 virtual students in Stephens County, as of Monday.”

— Hope McFatridge, virtual teacher

There are several virtual teachers throughout Duncan. This year, Hope McFatridge serves as the Duncan High School virtual teacher, but she currently share a working space at Duncan Middle School with DMS virtual teacher Shannon Rose.

Last year, McFatridge was a resource teacher at Duncan Middle School.

“There are over 500 virtual students in Stephens County, as of Monday,” she said.

Castle said this school year has taken some time to get used to, but it’s not just students going virtual that has been different.

“It was hard for me to adapt to the new way we go to school,” Castle said. “The mask was the hardest thing; I don’t enjoy them.”

Students who have gone virtual will remain virtual throughout the semester. However, at the end of the first semester, they have the option to return to regular classes. Or they can remain virtual.

“It’s up to you if you think it’s necessary to go to school,” Castle said.