ELIZABETH - As Wirt County Schools is seeing an increase in enrollment, the district's commitment to integrating more technology into the classroom is giving students the best education to prepare them for the challenges of the 21st Century.
The district is up 45 students from last year, said Wirt County Schools Superintendent Daniel Metz.
"That is a significant increase from last year," he said. "We had the largest percentage increase in the state.
Wirt County Schools has universal preschool available where any 4-year-old in the county can attend preschool classes. The county has four preschool classes, each run by a certified West Virginia teacher.
"In a small county like this, that kind of increase is substantial. It is a good place to be."
Wirt County Schools has 1,020 students enrolled at its three schools, the Wirt County Primary Center (366), the Wirt County Middle School (312) and Wirt County High School (342).
With the additional students, some classrooms are close to capacity and additional staff and programs are needed in areas like special education as well as math and science teaching.
"We still have some challenges," Metz said.
Despite the challenges, all the schools in Wirt County made Adequate Yearly Progress.
"We continue to see good things here," Metz said.
Over the past year, the Wirt County Primary Center began offering universal pre-school in the county.
"Any 4-year-old in the county who wishes to attend pre-school can," Metz said, adding the district has four pre-school classes, each run by a certified West Virginia teacher.
The primary center received a Critical Skills Grant for the third grade. At the middle school, improvements have been made in areas such as math and language arts.
Over the past few years the district has made great strides in integrating technology in the classroom at all levels.
The primary center has two desktop computer labs and three mobile labs. The middle school has two full desktop computer labs and three mobile labs. Each student at the high school has their own Netbook/laptop computer.
"We have been really pleased with the technology and how the students and teachers have embraced it," Metz said.
The district has also spent a lot of time updating the infrastructure around the district to accommodate the technology. Every school now has wireless internet.
"The (Wirt County) Board of Education has really made this a priority and made sure the finances were in place to do it," Metz said. "We spent two years training and improving the district's infrastructure to do it."
Students at the high school are now using computers instead of textbooks. Their program is becoming so well known that one of the first things new students at the high school ask for is their Netbooks, Metz said.
For a rural district like Wirt, Metz has said technology is the great equalizer for the students. It has put them on an equal footing with more districts across the nation and has gotten the students to think more globally.
"We are using so much technology in building 21st Century schools here," he said. "The students and staff have really embraced it.
"It has been phenomenal."