Salem Returns Update

News for our families from Salem Public Schools

A note from Steve Zrike, Superintendent

I want to extend my appreciation to all of our staff who are working so hard to provide services to our students in ways that they have never been asked to before. Many of you have expressed your gratitude to the educators that work with your children through emails and during meet and greets. I urge you to send them encouraging notes and messages if your child is having a strong experience thus far. I know they would appreciate it!

In this edition of our newsletter, please find information and guidance for elementary families (particularly PreK-3) whose children may be struggling with aspects of remote learning- length of screen time, navigating the technology and/or needing an adult present to complete assignments. As a parent of a 2nd grader, I can empathize with these challenges and I thought it would be useful to provide some rationale for our approach as well as tips for improving the experience, an experience that is dramatically different than the spring.

This is also why, beginning Monday, we will start contacting families about their interest in returning to school after our November break! Our focus will be working to implement our plan as approved in August to have students in grades preK-3 in person with the option for any student to remain remote. We also want to understand the interest of students in grades 4-9 in having more in-person learning. As always, we remain committed to following public health guidance and our community spread data, so this is all dependent on our continued mitigation of the virus as a community and following our health and safety strategies (all students wearing masks, maintaining six feet of social distancing, regular hand washing, and home health checks). Classes would be up to 16 students to ensure 6 feet of physical space between desks and for the teachers, and this may include some changes to the daily schedule. We will be asking families whether you want more in-person learning or if you know you will keep your student remote, and, if in-person, if your student will need a bus. The decision next week is not binding, but future changes to your answers limit our ability to move forward as a system. We are excited to be planning to have more students in person, and appreciate your help!



A Hub Connects Update

We know that one of the hardest parts of remote learning for students is not being able to make in-person connections with their peers and our dedicated educators. That is why we created Hub Connects, the opportunity for any student to come to school for one hour, once a week to be with their classmates and their teachers outside and in small groups.

The response from families for Hub Connects and, for those students who are able to attend in-person Hub Labs, continues to increase as families gain confidence and interest in the in-person options. Because of the increased demand, we have had to continuously adjust our transportation plans over the first 10 days of school.

As a result of this increased demand for transportation, we need to push back the start of in-person Hub Connects until the first week of October. Schools will still launch the “Connects” experience virtually if they have not done so already, and we look forward to welcoming all students who want to attend in-person the week of October 5th.

Thank you for your flexibility as we work to ensure that all students that want to participate in person, can be there.

Message to Elementary School Families About Remote Learning

We have received questions from the parents of (primarily) elementary-aged students about the Salem Public Schools’ plan for remote learning. Specifically, parents have expressed concerns about the length of time students need to be online, the challenges of supporting their children with a comprehensive academic schedule and the expectation that students be present for learning every day.

In response to these questions, I wanted to provide clarifying information and more explicit details regarding our approach. We know that this is a significant shift in expectations for students and families from the remote experience this spring and we wanted to provide a more thorough explanation.

  • For the 2020-21 school year, the Department of Education requires a full day of instruction, 5 hours of daily instruction for 170 days. This equates to 850 hours of yearly instruction for students. Our elementary school day is predicated on meeting these requirements.

  • With the hope that we return to more in-person instruction, we are keeping our school day as similar to an in-person day as we can. We want to minimize any interruptions in learning that might result from a transition to more in-person learning later in the school year.

  • While we would prefer that students are engaged in learning at the time that it is scheduled, we understand that this might prove to be a challenge for parents who are working during these hours. For this reason, we are asking our educators to record aspects of their lessons so that students can engage in the learning later in the day. Some teachers may deliver new content in a short mini-lesson at the beginning of a class and other teachers may introduce new content in chunks throughout a lesson. In either case, all portions of the lesson where new content is delivered will be recorded so that there is flexibility in the time of day when the work is completed.

  • In addition to recorded lessons, teachers post all daily assignments to allow students to complete work at a later time. Daily lessons are designed for maximum flexibility which affords students the opportunity to engage in the level of live learning that makes sense for them for that day.

  • Our teachers are making schedule adjustments based on their professional judgment and family input. They are actively working on striking the right balance between live instruction, recorded instruction and independent work.

  • We believe that it will take a few weeks for students, families and staff to get accustomed to the remote learning routines. If after 3 weeks, your child is still experiencing frustration with the virtual experience, I would ask that you reach out to your child’s teacher and/or school principal.

In addition, we have discovered some helpful tips from other parents that could encourage and motivate your student. As with any quick tip, these may not work for all students, but if you are looking for something to try, we offer these suggestions:

  • Invest in a timer: A simple egg timer, timer on a phone, or other timing device can help a student manage their own time for lunch and breaks and help them feel independent.

  • Encourage a hands-off approach: encourage the student to navigate Classlink and Google Classroom on their own so they can find things independently. Students will have varying levels of independence, but it might be a good time to practice what they CAN do on their own.

  • Have fidget toys nearby: fidget toys can help with a student who needs to distribute their focus in order to sit still. A fidget toy could be a simple extra pencil they can twirl or playdoh in a plastic bag that they can squeeze.

  • While we know this is frustrating for adults, please have a positive attitude in front of the student. If they see you being positive and enthusiastic, they will mirror that response

  • Have a “break chair”: have a comfortable place away from the computer for a break, it could be somewhere comfortable where they bring their timer. Have a healthy snack and some water available for them, perhaps a favorite toy or item to give them some downtime.

  • Have a conversation to minimize anxiety. Students will not “get in trouble” if they are giving it their all and trying their best. Verbalize this with them. Technological glitches can happen on both the student side and the instructor side. Work together to find where you need to be or contact the teacher if the problem persists.

We appreciate your flexibility and openness as we launch a more comprehensive remote learning experience for students. We believe that through the hard work of our educators and schools that the virtual learning experience is significantly more meaningful and streamlined than the crisis teaching we delivered from one day to the next in the spring. Ultimately, we believe there is no substitute for in-person learning, especially for our youngest students. As promised, we are working diligently to revisit our previous plan to provide in-person instruction for our primary grade students within the first quarter of the school year. Stay tuned!

A note from your school nurses

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Happy Autumn! Amidst the change in weather, allergies, colds, fever, or other viral symptoms may require your Hub: Labs in-person student to stay home from school. If your child is sick, please remember to call your school and let us know they won't be coming in. Also, if you do need to take your child to the doctor for an illness, please obtain a 'return to school' note to provide the school nurse.

Also, now is the time to contact your child's medical provider and schedule a flu vaccine. Flu season is around the corner! We are always here to answer any questions you might have. Please call anytime. Thank you.

In good health,

The SPS School Nurses

Pupil Service and Students with IEPs

September 3, 2020: Letter from Russell Johnston, Senior Associate Commissioner and State Director of Special Education, DESE

Dear Parents and Guardians,

As we begin the new school year, I am writing to share with you some important updates about what the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (the Department) is doing to support students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) as schools reopen.

First, though, I want to thank you for your strength in managing the difficult circumstances during this time. You have stepped up in remarkable ways to fill the gaps caused by the sudden closure of schools. We know that, especially for students with disabilities, this was not an easy and smooth transition. The Department, together with all of our districts and schools, is committed to partnering with you to best support your child to learn and grow this school year.


Families Helping Families In-Person Technology Support


Do you need help understanding your student's learning platforms? Join these in-person sessions in both Spanish and English to gain tech support from parents and community members.

WHEN: Monday-Friday

WEEK OF September 21st

WEEK OF September 28th

WEEK OF October 5th

TIME: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


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Pandemic EBT Cards (P-EBT)

P-EBT benefits will be issued in September 2020 at a rate of $5.86 per day.

Please note, eligibility has changed since last school year. You will get September P-EBT funds if your student(s): qualifies for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program, AND their school building has been closed due to a delayed start in September AND/OR the student is learning at home for at least 5 days in a row in September.

The P-EBT amount is based on each student’s school learning situation confirmed by their school in September and may vary from student to student, even within a family. More information can be found HERE.

If you already have a card, P-EBT funds will be added to the EBT card you already have starting on September 30, 2020. That site above is a great resource and has most questions answered.

On October 1st, you may request a new card from DTA by visiting DTA is not taking requests to replace cards for September benefits until October 1st.

Frequently Asked Questions

We know that families still have many questions about this unique start to the school year. We have created a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document that will be continuously updated as we advance through this school year.

Please take a look and if you still have a question that was not addressed, please send it to

Other important links

Did you miss our High Hopes video? We hope it brings you and your family joy as we get going with the 2020-2021 school year. Watch below.

Salem has High Hopes for the 2020-2021 School year

Welcome Back To School!

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