Merrill Minute

March 8, 2021

Respect Week at Merrill

The week of March 1-5 was #RespectWeek at Merrill-sponsored by Unified Sports and Special Olympics. The goal of Respect Week is to encourage students and faculty to embrace the joys of ALL ABILITIES and share the importance of INCLUSION. This was the third year that Special Olympics Iowa has celebrated #RespectWeek.

We celebrated Respect Week by displaying messages of inclusion and respect around our building, signing the Inclusion Pledge during lunch on Tuesday, engaging in discussions about how we are more alike than different, and promoting inclusion with stickers, pencils, and flags.

Thank you to Kari Ferring for organizing the week at Merrill!

Book Talks with Mrs. Kent

In honor of respect and inclusion week, Mrs. Kent's first book talk video highlights five books with the theme of discovering personal identity. Click the video link below to listen in!

How to reserve a book...

We Need You!

We have a long-term sub associate position open at Merrill.

Job Requirements (one of the following must be met):

(1) 48 credit hours post-secondary education
(2) associate’s degree or higher
(3) paraeducator certification from Board of Educational Examiners
(4) combined score of 150 or higher on the COMPASS test or meet the requirements for the ACCUPlacer exam

Please email if you are interested in supporting Merrill students in this capacity.

Cell Phones

Greetings, Mustang Families,

We believe that full engagement in learning is essential to student success. A few years ago after surveying students and staff, visiting with community members, examining the latest research, and reviewing policies across our district, we moved to a cell phone-free learning environment from 8:00 AM to 3:25 PM.

This decision was based on a growing consensus of research that indicates that student engagement in learning is negatively impacted when cell phones are present in the classroom. Areas impacted include immediate engagement, long-term retention, group learning environment, and the overall social/emotional health of our students. We also learned in our inquiry that even students who do not bring cell phones to class are negatively impacted by those who do. Our policy is stated below.

Cell Phones: Cell phones need to be off and put away for the duration of the school day. We define “put away” as in a school bag, checked-in to a trusted teacher at the start of the day, or left at home. We define “school day” as the time from when the student enters the building until 3:25.

Parents and families who need to contact their student during the school day should call the main office at 242-8448. Students needing to call home during the day may use the phone in the main office. Finally, students may check their cell phones for messages when school is dismissed at 3:25.

A few reminders...

Extended Learning


Ms. Ovrom has curated a new collection of academic enrichment materials for Spring 2021, and it will be available to all students from Merrill who are interested in extended learning!

Resources are housed in an Extended Learning “course” that will open on March 10. Interested students can look for an invite in the upper left corner of their Canvas dashboard, but if they don’t see a link there, they can just send one simple word (ENRICHMENT!) to Stephenie Ovrom – via Chat, in Teams – and Ms. O will get them set up.

After kids have had a chance to explore the site independently for 2-3 weeks, they’ll be invited to an informal meeting(s) to share with other enrollees what they have learned from and/or enjoyed most on the site. While some resources are tied to core classes, like Math and ELA, others focus on a broad range of topics, from growth mindset and college readiness to social justice, virtual field trips, and more.

Also, with a nod toward reducing kids’ screen time, puzzles – sudoku, tangrams, and New York Times student crosswords – will be provided as PDFs that can be printed (and if your child’s virtual, without access to a printer, Ms. O will mail paper copies to your home).

Merrill Masks and Apparel

Many of you have requested the order form for the Merrill masks after we sold out in the fall when we were in the hybrid learning model. They are now back in stock. We have also added a few apparel items.

To purchase a Merrill mask or other Merrill apparel, please go to and enter the passcode: DSMMER21.

This promo closes on Monday, March 15th at midnight.

Grading and Feedback

Tracking Student Progress

To track your student’s progress throughout the year, we suggest two steps:

  • Join Canvas as an Observer so that you can see the assignments that your student is being given, the work that is submitted, and the feedback that is received.

  • Check Infinite Campus periodically for updates on SRG topic scores, being sure to select Term 22 for student scores and in-progress grades during second semester.

For more information about SRG in Des Moines Public Schools, please click here. For additional information or questions about Infinite Campus or Canvas navigation, please contact Danielle Taylor or Allison Chartier, Merrill Instructional Coaches. For course specific questions, please contact your child's teacher.

Student Evidence:

The Merrill Middle School Homework Check-In link can be found on the front page of our website and is your one-stop-shop to accessing the learning materials for each day and staying up-to-date on what is assigned and due. Click here to access the Merrill Middle School Homework Check-in.

Attendance Adjustments

Greetings, Mustang Families,

As a reminder, DMPS adjusted our attendance taking process on Monday, February 15th. Below is a summary of those changes.

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.

  • Teachers will mark students "NP" or "not present” if they are not physically in the classroom AND add a comment "SL" for Synchronous Learning if the student attends the Teams meeting.

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

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Science Bound Award Winners

Congratulations to Poet, Ftahawit, Nyelah, and Tila on their Science Bound awards! We are proud of you! To learn more about the Science Bound Program for 8th graders, please click here.
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Merrill Bell Schedule for ALL Students (Virtual and In-Person)

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Community Legislative Action Team (CLAT)

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

To learn more, please visit or email

Community Resources - Academics

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Merrill Links - We are here for you!


March 11: School Pictures

March 15-19: Spring Break

May 31: Memorial Day - No School

June 3: Last Day of School - Early Dismissal