Salem Returns Update

News for our families from Salem Public Schools

A note from Steve Zrike, Superintendent


SPS families,

I hope your families enjoyed a meaningful November recess following the busy month of October in Salem. This week has afforded our staff the opportunity to reflect on the successes and challenges of the first 7 weeks of school and to plan for the return of more students to in-person school beginning on November 16th. We appreciate how hard our staff has worked this week to continue to refine and improve how we serve our students.

We remain committed to our plan to bring back our grades K-2, 6th grade Collins Middle School, and SHS 9th grade students as we continue to believe that there is tremendous academic, social and emotional value that comes with expanding the in-person teaching and learning experience. While there is a rise in positive COVID cases in our schools and across the city, current health guidance suggests that it remains safe for students and staff to be in school. The state advises school districts to examine whether they should be fully remote only after being designated as high-risk (red) after 3 weeks or more. Additionally, when determined to be a high-risk community, health officials have urged school districts to examine the spread of the virus within the schools before making a change in the instructional approach. Please know that we are carefully monitoring the virus data and actively consulting with the Salem Board of Health to ensure that we are keeping the health and safety of our students and staff at the forefront.

I urge families to review Governor Baker’s recent stay at home guidance, travel orders, and recommendations for indoor gatherings which can be found at- Adhering to these measures is essential if we are able to keep our schools open for in-person learning. We appreciate your cooperation and partnership as we take the precautionary steps to keep our community safe.

Finally, please join us for a webinar on Monday evening, Nov. 9th at 6 pm (see information below) to ask questions and learn more about the plan to welcome more students to school on November 16th.

Enjoy the weekend,


Town Hall Meeting - Monday

Please join us on Monday, November 9th for a town hall meeting. We will discuss bringing back our youngest learners in PreK-2, as well as our 6th grade Collins students and 9th grade SHS students.

We will have district leaders available to answer your questions about academics, health, building safety, special education services, and more. If you have questions you’d like to have answered, please email them to

Please join us at 6:00 pm on Monday by clicking this link to join.

Our district is joining ParentSquare!

We are excited to let you know that starting on November 16th we’ll be using ParentSquare across all of our schools and classrooms to communicate with you from the district, at your school, and in your classrooms and groups.

ParentSquare provides a simple and safe way for everyone to connect on one platform.

With ParentSquare you’ll be able to:

  • Receive all school and classroom communication via email, text, or app
  • Message directly with your classroom teachers in your preferred language
  • Share and view files and photos
  • Easily sign up to volunteer and/or bring items

Activating your Account

In the next week, you will receive an invitation email or text to join ParentSquare. Please click

the link to activate your account. It takes less than a minute. You can use ParentSquare on any device. You can download the free mobile app for Android or iOS and you can also use it from a computer at:

Our goal is for every family to join ParentSquare. If you have questions or do not receive your account activation by November 13th, please contact your school's front office staff or send an email to

COVID-19 cases in our schools

SPS continues to learn from experts, interpret guidance, and plan for changing circumstances. We cannot predict the future, but can instead rely on the advice of our local health experts and guidance from local leaders.

Our overall considerations for moving forward with school plans are:

  • Our close partnership with the Salem Board of Health: Relying on their advice when notified of a positive case
  • Focusing on the specific spread in schools: To date, we have not seen spread in the schools – this is consistent with state, national, and international results
  • Paying attention to where positive cases are occurring: Salem’s positivity rate is low; case increases are mainly coming from clusters within families and indoor, private gatherings
  • Staying safe: Maintaining and enforcing the health and safety protocols we have in place: Still dependent on implementing all risk mitigation measures

As a reminder

  • You should expect that there will be COVID-19 cases in our community. This is a fact of the times we are living in right now.
  • When there are cases, you can expect that we will uphold the privacy, confidentiality, and dignity of both staff and students.
  • You should expect that if you are directly impacted you will get a phone call.
  • When we have been notified about a case, we notify those affected first. The staff and students not affected in that school/building will be notified for informational purposes.
  • We believe that following the health and safety protocols we have in place mitigates risk and allows us to safely provide in-person learning.
  • Even while we are bringing students back to school, there MAY be a time where a classroom is asked to quarantine and switch to remote learning, this is to be expected while we live with this pandemic among us.
  • We believe that the break for students this past week is helpful both for our educators to plan for excellent, engaging lessons for our students and for our community after the busy October time. If any students are exposed to anyone who tests positive, please notify your school nurse even though we are on break!
  • We encourage everyone to go get tested and ensure that any positive results are communicated as quickly as possible. Click here to find the testing hours for the two free COVID-19 testing sites. The city is encouraging all residents to get tested twice a month!

What does "red" status mean?

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) & the Department of Public Health have released updated guidance on understanding “red” for schools. It states: "districts and schools currently open for in-person instruction are encouraged to remain open even if their local community is designated as red, so long as there is no evidence of COVID-19 transmission in the schools." In addition, the state reporting will now also indicate if a city or town's designation is based on a spread in a particular institution such as a long-term care facility, higher education institution, or correctional facility.

What this means:

Cities and towns should examine where the spread is happening, including clusters in a long-term care facility, institution of higher education, and/or correction facility

Schools should focus on the spread in schools, not just community spread when making decisions about changing course for in-person or remote learning.

New Salem Public schools COVID-19 dashboard

Our new dashboard will be updated weekly and appear on the front page of the district website
Big picture

Changing your student's in-person/remote status

As we bring more students back to school in person and monitor COVID-19 spread in our community and in our schools, there may be circumstances in which, after deciding that their children should start the school year learning remotely, parents decide they would like their children to attend school in person. In order to be mindful of health and safety considerations that require planning (such as maintaining appropriate distancing in the classroom), parents/caregivers should anticipate a reasonable waiting period before students are able to change from remote to in-person learning. Please be aware that requests for changes will result in a change of teacher or possible cross-school remote options.

Changes remote to in-person happen at set windows:


  1. After Winter Holidays – Monday, January 4th
  2. Mid-point – Monday, February 8th
  3. Start of 3rd Trimester – Monday, March 15th
  4. Mid-point – Monday, April 12th

Salem High School:

  1. After Winter Holidays – Monday, January 4th
  2. Start of 3rd Quarter – Monday, February 8th
  3. Mid-point 3/14 – Monday, March 15th
  4. Start of 4th Quarter – Monday, April 12th

Changes in-person to remote will be granted in most cases within one week of request.

What are my after school options?

As we bring our students back to school, families have been asking about the afterschool options that will be available from our partners. We have also received inquiries asking whether or not full day Hub Extensions with our partners will still be available.

  • All of our elementary schools will have after school care on-site for students who are in-person in grades K-2. Please contact the provider in your building to find out more information (contacts below)
  • There will continue to be full day Hub Extensions located at CMS for those elementary students doing remote learning.

The Salem YMCA will operate after school programs for students who are in person at Bentley, Bates, Horace Mann, Carlton, and WHES. They will also continue to run full-day hubs at their main site. For more information please contact Libby Trejo at, 781-990-7085. Spaces available.

The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem will operate an after school program at Saltonstall and two full-day Hub Extensions for elementary school students from any school at Collins. For more information please contact Barbara Marino or call 978 744 0915. Spaces available.

Campfire of the Northshore will operate two Hub Extensions at CMS for elementary school students from any school. To inquire about participation please contact Mary Cole at or 781-732-0223. Spaces available.

Cone of Excellence Award

At Salem Public Schools, we are recognizing one staff member a week who exemplifies our core values of: celebrating differences, facilitating collaboration, fostering innovation, creating equity and access, growing all students, and upholding high standards for all. We are surprising a deserving SPS team member with a construction cone that displays the words: “Awesome,” “Well Done,” and “Great Job.”

The first cone of excellence is given to Bentley first grade teacher Megan Otteson. She stepped up to teach Bentley’s prioritized first graders, the majority of whom are new English language learners, in-person. A special shout out for the way that she has collaborated with the ESL teacher to implement a social justice unit during the combined ELA/ELD block while simultaneously encouraging her students to care for each other by following COVID health and wellness protocols.

Good Question!

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has worked with community partners to create a series of short videos in response to common questions about teaching and learning, safety, and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents and others can go to the Good Question! page and click on the questions they are interested in to watch a short video reply. Videos will be added on a rolling basis.

COVID-19 "Stop the spread" testing times and locations

Updated information about new times and a shift in the location at the High School for COVID-19 testing in Salem:

Old Town Hall

32 Derby Square

Monday-Wednesday: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Thursday: 1 – 6 p.m.

Friday: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Salem High School at the Salerno Automotive Building (near the tennis courts):

77 Willson Street

Monday-Friday: 4 – 8 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Staying healthy

We know that for many of our families and for our community, COVID-19 fatigue can be a real thing and we want to remind you to stay vigilant with your health and safety habits.

Please keep up the great work! Being mindful of our daily routines keeps us healthy helps us bring more students back to school safely.

What You Need To Know About Handwashing

Connecting with Superintendent Zrike

Are you looking for a one-on-one meeting with Superintendent Zrike?

Dr. Zrike will be holding one-on-one meetings outside, distanced, and with face coverings at Salem Common by appointment on Friday's between 7:30 am-10:00 am.

Please send an email to to set up your appointment.

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