Salem Public Schools Update

News for our families from Salem Public Schools

A note from Steve Zrike, Superintendent


Happy New Year 2021! I hope that you enjoyed a restful and enjoyable winter break with your families. This week school resumed virtually as we offered the opportunity for all students and staff to COVID test (almost 2000 tests administered) prior to opening our doors to in-person learning. We are reviewing these results and you will be notified if your child tested positive. Otherwise, no news is good news.

On Monday, January 11th, we are excited to return more students to in-person schooling. Students in grades 3-5 and in grades 7-8 will have the option of returning to a hybrid learning model. We look forward to welcoming many students back after being away from school for almost 10 months.

I also want to acknowledge the troubling events that occurred at the US Capitol building on Wednesday, January 6th. As a parent, I have struggled with what to say to my own children and what to message to our educators about the distressing scene that unfolded on live television. First of all, I believe that it is important to directly address what occurred as the images were so publicly visible. We must honor the many questions and ideas that our young people are processing. For this reason, creating a space and time for our students to have the opportunity to share their thoughts is important. Additionally, it is essential that we emphasize that violence of any kind is never acceptable. While citizens have the right to protest and express their opinion, we must remind our youth that advocacy should always be peaceful. It should never undermine the foundation and values of our democracy. Our nation is built on a strong Constitution and we will continue to move forward beyond the actions of a small number of individuals.

To conclude, thank you for your continued patience, flexibility, and understanding as we introduce a new phase of in-person learning offerings to our students and families. Our school teams and educators have been working on overdrive to plan a strong transition to this new hybrid model and we appreciate the grace and support that you have afforded us during these challenging times.

Have a terrific weekend,


This week's testing

While we are finishing the final tallies, we are excited to report that we completed over 1800 COVID tests in the last few days! Results started coming back today and will likely take all day. We will post a message through ParentSquare and Facebook when the final notifications have gone out.

No news is good news! If you don’t hear from us by tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon, your pool was NEGATIVE! If you hear from us, it will be a school nurse or team member calling to inform you that your test was in a “Positive Pair” - this means that either your test or one other test is positive (or a 50/50 chance). At that point, you will receive an email with instructions for how to complete the FDA-required diagnostic test information and consent. When you complete it, the test company should be able to run an additional test to give you your individual results.

We do know that some people had trouble providing enough saliva, in which case you might have to follow-up with an individual test at one of our other testing sites, or your test might not have been successful If there wasn’t enough saliva, the test was not run and we don’t have a way of getting that information to you at this time. We’re sorry! We haven’t had this happen before.

Thank you to all those who participated, and the nurses, custodians, family engagement facilitators, school leaders, and other team members who made testing possible (even in the snow!) It takes a village and ours came together this week to maximize safety as best we can. We have enough tests for at least a few more weeks with this specific option, and we hope to share more information soon about what testing will look like going forward!

For those who have asked, we will continue staff and high school student testing weekly until our supplies run out. The reality is that the testing world and the political world around us is changing daily. We are proud to be on the front edge of this work and remain in contact with the state, city hall, and multiple providers to identify the best options for our community.

Hybrid Learning for many students begins on Monday

We are very excited for our third "first day of school" on Monday as we welcome students in grades 3-8 back in hybrid.

You should have received information from your child’s school about your student’s schedule - whether they are remaining remote or coming in person two days a week - and we know that there have been many parent information sessions! Thank you to our school leaders and teachers. If you have not received information from your school regarding Monday, please check with your child’s school and teacher! In many cases, the changes might actually not feel like that much of a change at all - even if your student is now coming in person.

We are not able to give a general answer to what hybrid will look like because our incredible teams of teachers and leaders have truly designed the best plans to meet the needs of students at each school and grade level. The result is that all students will have maximized “live” learning experiences every day, whether they are in-person or remote! Start and end times ARE NOT changing, and lunch and other details will look the same as they did in December.

Every school exceeded the expectations of at least two hours per day of live learning, with many schools making it possible for students to be zooming into class on their remote days, or rotating through their subjects just as they would in the current remote model or in an in-person experience before COVID.

The transportation office is finalizing the new bus routes and will be sending out bus stop information today and tomorrow. The transportation office can be called at 978-740-1138 with questions.

We can’t wait to see our students again Monday!

P-EBT Card Information for the 2020-2021 School Year

How much will I get?

  • Students in a fully remote learning situation will get $117.20 per month.
  • Students in a hybrid learning situation will get $58.60 per month.
  • Students attending school either half-day or fully in person are not eligible for P-EBT.

How will I get P-EBT for October and November?

  • Funds for October and November will be issued in ONE issuance.
  • I got P-EBT in the past: You will get funds on your EBT or P-EBT card in late December.
  • I am new to P-EBT: If you get SNAP and/or TAFDC, look for funds to be added to the DTA EBT card you already have. If you do not get SNAP and/or TAFDC, look for a DTA letter and card in the mail in mid January.

How will I get P-EBT funds in 2021?

  • I got P-EBT in the past on a P-EBT card: Starting in January, check your P-EBT card for funds on the 25th of each month for the rest of the school year.
  • I got P-EBT in the past on my DTA EBT card: Starting in January, check your EBT card for funds on the 25th of each month for the rest of the school year.
  • If you are new to P-EBT
  • If you get SNAP and/or TAFDC, check your DTA EBT card for funds.
  • If you do NOT get SNAP and/or TAFDC, you will get a letter in the mail from the DTA. You will also get a P-EBT card in the mail in a different envelope. KEEP THE LETTER UNTIL YOU HAVE GOTTEN AND PINNED THE CARD. The letter has your students’ case number that you need to PIN the card.

Each month, funds will be added to your card on the 25th of each month for the month before. For example: your February P-EBT funds will be based on your students’ learning situation in January.

No longer have your P-EBT card?

Request a replacement card at If you need a new EBT card, call DTA at 1-877-382-2363.

IMPORTANT: Using P-EBT does not impact you or your student’s immigration status. The public charge rule does not apply to this program.

Deborah Jeffers Retires from Salem Public Schools

We are both excited and sad to announce to the Salem Community the retirement of our much-loved Director of School Nutrition Services, Deborah Jeffers. Deb has worked for Salem Public Schools for 28 years, including the last ten years as Director. Deb worked tirelessly to ensure that all students have access to healthy meals each day and to address the food insecurity challenges faced by so many of our families here in Salem.

She paved the way for Salem to be one of the first districts in the state to adopt the Community Eligibility Provision of the National School Lunch Program which allows all SPS students to eat breakfast and lunch at no charge. She established a Breakfast in the Classroom program for Salem’s elementary schools and launched the Summer Food Program to address the needs of families during the summer months with over 16 distribution sites available for local families.

Read the full announcement here.

High School Winter Sports Update

Welcome to the winter sports season! We are excited to get this started. As you can imagine, there are some updates and new requirements for participation for the following winter sports:
Gymnastics, Swimming, Girls & Boys Basketball

Winter Sports will start practice on 1/9/2021. All athletes must register for participation through the FamilyID web site and must submit a current physical. Physicals can be submitted through Family ID or emailed to

All athletes must get the flu vaccine and provide the school nurse with the appropriate documentation in order to participate by January 11th.

All athletes are required to do a weekly COVID test during the season. Forms and tests will be distributed by either the coach or the Athletic Director, Scott Connolly.

Race Equity Task Force

As you may know, earlier this year, a Race Equity Task Force (RETF) was convened in Salem to help our community review and discuss the ways in which racial inequities can exist within local systems such as education, economics, culture, public safety, and health care. The group, which includes community members, institutional leaders, City Councillors, and School Committee members, has been meeting for several months putting together a structure of committees, gathering data, and reviewing existing information.

The Task Force is seeking input from community members on race equity issues. By completing the survey, we hope to gain important input that will be helpful in advancing racial equity goals for our city. I’m hoping you’ll help share your thoughts by completing the survey.

COVID-19 Vaccine

We have received word that school nurses will receive the vaccine in phase one. Our nurses will be getting the vaccine in the next few weeks.

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.”

Ms. Damaris Almonte and Ms. Kim Malionik are office secretaries at Witchcraft Elementary and have been awarded the Cone of Excellence Award this week. Ms. Almonte arrives early each day and stays late each evening and is willing to take on any responsibility that comes her way, including covering classrooms, recess, dismissal, and arrival and new COVID related duties. Ms. Almonte seems to know every student and family in the school and greets everyone with a smile whether in person or on the phone.

Ms. Malionik has been a part of the WHES community as a student, parent, and staff member and truly loves our school putting her heart and soul into her work each day. Ms. Malionik has most recently taken on extra responsibilities in the role of Family Engagement Facilitator as well as some challenging new operational assignments. Ms. Malionik is always willing to step up to assume new responsibilities efficiently and with an open mind.

Download the ParentSquare app today!

A reminder that ParentSquare is the district platform for communication. You will receive communication from the district, your school, and your student's classroom all in one space. You can communicate 1-to-1 with teachers, sign up for parent-teacher conferences, and more.

This is how the schools will communicate with families districtwide going forward. Please be sure you are receiving messages from ParentSquare. If you are having trouble, contact your school's front office. You can visit for more information.

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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