Merrill Minute

February 12, 2021

5 Day In-Person Begins Monday

Greetings, Mustangs,

On Monday, February 15, students who selected in-person learning will begin attending all 5 days each week. This change has very little impact on how we will continue to conduct business on a day-to-day basis at Merrill.

Schedule (In-person AND Virtual)

We will continue to follow our current bell schedule for class periods. In-person students will remain in the same classroom for a majority of the day, and teachers will rotate from classroom to classroom. In-person students will alternate between lunch in the classroom one week, and then lunch in the cafeteria the next. Lunch hours for virtual students will remain the same.

Mitigation (In-person)
Students and staff are required to wear masks at all times, except when eating breakfast or lunch. We will not be able to maintain 6-feet of physical distance between students, but we will ask students to remain in their assigned seats/areas for contact tracing purposes.

Reminder from Nurse Menke (In-Person)

With the number of in-person students at Merrill more than doubling on Monday, please do not send your student to school if:

  • Your child is feeling ill.
  • Your child is being tested for Covid-19.
  • Your child tested positive for Covid-19 and has been told to isolate.
  • You have a positive Covid-19 case in your household.
  • Your child has been exposed to a positive Covid-19 person.
  • Your child has been identified as a close contact and has been told to quarantine.

Yours in this snow globe we call Iowa,


Kathryn Panek, Principal

Merrill Middle School

Plan to Make Up Fall Instructional Time

Des Moines Public Schools began the 2020-21 school year virtually for all students. This was done as a precaution for the health and well-being of our students, staff and community as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to spread.

Because virtual learning was the only option at DMPS in September and early October – and not a voluntary choice for families – the Iowa Department of Education determined that the school district was not compliant with state requirements.

DMPS and the Iowa Department of Education have been in discussions over the past few months on how to make up instructional time during the non-compliant period.

Several of the steps, outlined below, will have minimal impact on our families while still meeting our obligation to provide students with the required instructional time.

In our original 2020-21 school year calendar, classes were not going to be held on the following four dates set aside for either conferences or professional development. Classes will now be held on these dates for students at ALL grade levels:

  • Monday, March 1
  • Tuesday, March 2
  • Friday, April 23
  • Thursday, June 3*

*June 3 will be the last day of classes for this school year; classes will be dismissed early.

During the school day, the following changes will be in place:

  • “Lunch Lessons” – Schools will provide access to learning during the lunch period while students are eating lunch. This could be as simple as making sure text is available for students to read, taking students outside for a few extra physical education minutes when the weather is nice, or discussing a question in a small group about being leaders in our school community.
  • Additional Instructional Time – Adjustments will be made to the morning schedule at schools that will provide 15-30 minutes of additional instruction time each school day. (At Merrill this means our doors will open at 8:00 for breakfast and guided study, instead of 8:15. First period for both in-person and virtual students will still begin at 9:15.)

New to In-Person Learning?

Attendance Adjustments

Greetings, Mustang Families,

I want to provide some clarification about our attendance system for our in-person and virtual learning settings beginning on Monday, February 15th.

Families who have selected 5-day in-person instruction at Merrill:

For many reasons, most importantly safety, it is imperative for us to have accurate data of who is present in the building each day. To this end, teachers will monitor student attendance of in-person students in the following ways:

  • Teachers will mark students “P” or “present” if they are physically in the classroom.

  • Teachers will mark students “NP” or “not present” if they are not physically in the classroom.

If your student is scheduled for in-person learning, but needs to Team in due to a possible exposure to COVID-19, required quarantine, appointment, or other circumstance, please be sure to notify Joyce Grace ( You will see NP (not present) in attendance, but as long as you have notified us, we will know your student is Teaming in.

Families who have selected 5-day virtual instruction at Merrill:

Teachers will continue to monitor daily student participation for virtual students just as we have in the past.

  • “P” means participated in the Teams meeting and/or learning engagement.

  • “NP” means did not participate in the Teams meeting and/or learning engagement.

Communication will continue to be extremely important. All families should contact Joyce Grace ( if your student is unable to participate in daily instruction due to illness, internet connectivity issues, or other circumstances. Once we have this information, we will update student attendance records and support your family however needed moving forward.

Yours in continuing to refine our system,


Kathryn Panek, Principal

Merrill Middle School

Merrill Bell Schedule for ALL Students (Virtual and In-Person)

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Community Legislative Action Team (CLAT)

Dear Families, Staff, and Supporters of Public Education,

You're invited to a virtual coffee with the CLAT team and your legislators. The Community Legislative Action Team's February coffee is this Saturday, February 13, at 9:00 a.m. Click here to register now.

There has been a lot of action at the Capitol this week impacting students! To help you sort through it all, we've included an outline of significant education bills currently being considered. We've also suggested a few action steps. Click here to read more.

This Saturday, February 13, we'll learn about Des Moines Public Schools' English Language Learner (ELL) program and about Bilingual Family Liaisons (BFL), a group of dedicated District staff who serve as cultural brokers to immigrant and refugee students and their families. We'll discuss ELL legislation and funding, have time for Q&A, and end on some important action steps. Hope to see you there!

Click here to register for Coffee with Your Legislators this Saturday morning.

See you Saturday,


Stay in Touch!



Merrill Top 10 List for In-Person Students

#1 - Wear A Mask

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Morning Arrival

Students may arrive at the school beginning at 8:00 a.m. The doors will NOT be unlocked before this time, so please be prepared with an alternative a.m. plan with the cold weather. Upon entering the building, Merrill staff will be available to help students find their way to their first period class.

Walkers: Please use the crosswalk near the east end of the building to cross Grand Avenue.

Bikers: Please park your bikes at the bike rack near the west end of the building.

Riders: You may drop your student off at three different locations:

  • Main entrance loop in front of Merrill.
  • In front of Merrill in the parking lane along Grand Avenue.
  • Shriver: Students then will walk up the path to Merrill and enter through the front doors.
  • Passenger Vehicles - Please do NOT use the west bus turnaround in the morning or afternoons. Thank you!

Bus: All students arriving via yellow bus will be dropped off on the west end of the building in the bus turnaround. Please check the Parent Portal on Infinite Campus for routing information.

Day in the life of an In-Person Student

  • 8:00 - 8:45 Doors open at Merrill. Students may grab breakfast from the cafeteria before heading directly to the classroom. (Classroom assignments are found under "schedule" in the Infinite Campus Portal.) There will be LOTS of staff available to help students find their way.

  • 8:45 - 9:15 In-person students may participate in guided study at Merrill and can begin arriving at 8:00 OR could potentially arrive at Merrill closer to 9:00 or 9:10 if not in need of additional support. All students who are scheduled for in-person instruction need to be in the classroom, computer started up, and ready to learn at 9:14.

  • 9:15-3:25 All students (virtual and in-person) will either "Team" in to class or attend in-person.

  • 3:25-3:30 Staggered dismissal process - walkers and bikers at 3:25, bus riders as each individual bus arrives, and then passenger vehicle riders at 3:26. Teachers will sweep the hallways and all students need to exit the building by 3:30.
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Day in the life of a Virtual Student

  • 8:00 - 9:15 Teachers will be available via a Teams link for additional support, targeted instruction, or guided practice.

  • 9:15-3:25 Students will join classes virtually.

  • 3:25 End of day.

8th Grade Families - From the Merrill Counseling Office

This week 8th graders participated in a state required, online survey courtesy of The survey asked students to rate how much they liked or disliked a series of activities. Results were in the form of a bar graph identifying the top 5 career clusters that aligned with the students' interests. This is a lead up activity to help students select meaningful courses at Roosevelt, or programs of interest at Central Campus. Be sure to ask your student about their career clusters.

Next week students will select courses for their 9th grade year. Each student will select enough courses to fill two semesters (one year) of a seven-period day. Students will enter their courses online via the student portal in Infinite Campus. Students will select an English, math, science, social science, and PE course. In addition, each student will select two elective courses.

For questions about this process or upcoming scheduling for Roosevelt, please reach out to (8th Grade students with the last name A-L) or (8th grade students with the last name M-Z).

Community Resources - Academics

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Merrill Links - We are here for you!


***March 11: School Pictures (More info. coming soon!) (Date Updated!)

March 15-19: Spring Break

May 31: Memorial Day - No School

June 3: Last Day of School - Early Dismissal