Coffman to School Board: “I’m proud of our kids; proud of our school.”

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

The Marlow Board of Education heard from school administrators on Monday as they reported on the first few weeks of the new school year under the shadow of COVID-19 and the regulations implemented in order to keep students and faculties safe during the pandemic.

Superintendent George Coffman that not only is Gross Production greatly reduced and affecting school funding, but enrollment is as well.

“Technically from the start of last year to the start of this year, we’re about 29 kids different,” Coffman said. He said that there had been 112 students that left Marlow Public Schools, 38 of which are now attending Epic Charter School; 74 of the 112 have left the district. “The good part is, we’ve had a bunch move in, otherwise it would be a bigger discrepancy in numbers from what we have.”

Coffman said that he has concerns about Epic, but that it’s an enrollment problem throughout the state.

“I think there are kids who can benefit from that [program] but my opinion is that the majority will not,” he said.

All of the administrators addressed the upcoming “virtual day” that is scheduled for September 16.

“What I want that day to be is, where are we if we have to go full-virtual,” Coffman said. “Teachers will come to school, we’ll have activities will be as usual, but we’re going to use the virtual platform so we can see where our issues are.”

In a full-virtual sense, Coffman said that he had concerns about students having devices. The chromebooks that were ordered in April have not yet arrived and staff is working on getting some devices donated.

“We need to find out for sure how many [students] do not have connectivity,” Coffman said. “They might say, ‘I have a device,’ but that device might be with [a parent] at work, because last time we were at home, everybody was at home.”

Elementary school principal Kim Kizarr said that she had started a technology drive for smart phones, tablets, and laptops in an effort to ensure that students had devices in time for the virtual day.

In all, administrators were positive about the progress that has been made since the first day, with teachers and students adapting to new guidelines and new systems.

Middle school principal Ross Ridge said that teachers at his campus had worked extra hours in order to address issues and ensure that systems were in place.

“All of our teachers have assignments available on Google Classroom,” Ridge said. “For instance, Ms. Travis and Ms. Woods’s classes created a google slide presentation over different countries and got great work in social studies and language arts.”

Ridge said that two teachers for each grade at the middle school had taken time to train students on how to use Google Classroom from the first day of school.

“They tell them to pull out their smart phones – which students had never heard before; they’re usually told to put them away – but just pull them out and let’s learn how to log on, how to complete assignments, how to turn them in,” Ridge said.

High school principal Bryan Brantley said that students were utilizing technology to stay connected with activities and the community. Multimedia students at the school put together a welcome video for new students, and they are working on starting a YouTube channel to share information and news about Marlow schools.

Brantley also said that students were adapting to many aspects of their activities being held virtually: speech students had completed a practice virtual speech tournament to prepare for the new way speech competitions will be handled; Student Council had held a national conference on-line and State Student Council president representative Elena Holguin had conducted several meetings virtually to plan for the coming year.

All administrators emphasized that although preparing for the school year had been difficult, faculty and students were improving daily and overcoming obstacles.

“I’m proud of our kids and proud of our school,” Coffman said.