Salem Schools Update
News for our families from Salem Public Schools
A note from Steve Zrike, Superintendent
I hope that your family had a peaceful and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. We appreciate your commitment to keeping our community safe by adhering to the Governor’s travel order and limiting the size of your Turkey Day gatherings. Please know that we are following up with families if we have questions or concerns about whether they followed the travel guidance. Nurses have been calling home to ensure that if a family traveled outside of the state that they send proof of a negative test. If no negative test is produced, the child must be picked up and will join the temporarily remote students until they have a negative test confirmed. These efforts are not intended to be judgmental or punitive, but rather follow through on our pledge to maintain the health and wellness of our students and staff.
In the last three weeks, we have seen a significant rise in positive cases throughout the city and in our schools. This is evidenced in our updated dashboard that is linked to this newsletter. Per our protocols and guidance from state health agencies, positive cases have resulted in the quarantining of individuals determined by our nursing team to be a close contact to a positive individual. We define close contacts as anyone who has been within 6 feet of a positive individual for more than 15 minutes cumulatively during a 24-hour period. We rely on the judgment of our school nurses and staff (in partnership with the Salem Board of Health) to determine whether a student or staff member requires the need to quarantine. Know that we err on the side of caution when making these determinations.
At this time, we continue to believe that it is in the best interest of this community for students to have the option of attending school in person as we balance public health risks with the academic, social, and emotional needs of students. We have not seen any evidence that there is any spread in our schools. While guidance and data can certainly shift in the coming weeks and months, at this time we are moving forward with offering our remaining remote learners the option of in-person schooling in the new year. In this newsletter, you will find information about how to register your family’s preference for your child if they are in grades 3-5, grade 6 (Saltonstall), and grades 10-12. While the initial response deadline was December 9th, we have extended the timeline until Monday, Dec. 14th. We want to give you as much time as possible to discuss this decision with your family while providing our schools with enough time to adequately plan for the immense work of returning more students to in-person school. This plan will be further discussed at our School Committee meeting scheduled for Monday, December 7th at 7 pm.
In order to have more students attending in-person schooling, we must double down on the health and safety procedures already being implemented- physical distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing, the use of HEPA filters, and community “Stop the Spread testing”, etc. What has been missing and is an essential component of a comprehensive mitigation strategy is the consistent availability of weekly COVID-19 testing. As you can see below, we are pleased to share that in partnership with the City of Salem, we are launching testing for all staff this week and for older students next week. Right now, funding permits testing to extend through the end of December, and we are actively working to continue this effort through the duration of the school year. We see this as a significant development toward the detection and isolation of the virus across our schools. We believe regular testing to be essential if we are to continue to offer an in-person option to our students and families.
Thank you, as always, for your support and continued partnership as we navigate our challenging reality.
Planning for a January return to school
Salem Public Schools is planning to offer hybrid in-person instruction for all students who have not yet had the opportunity to return to in-person instruction (Grades 3-5, Saltonstall grade 6, Grades 7-8, SHS Grades 10-12). Students will either attend school on Monday & Tuesday or Thursday & Friday, with remote instruction on the opposite days.
A fully remote option will continue to be available for those who need or want it.
Grades 3-5, Saltonstall grade 6, Grades 7-8: For these students we will offer a hybrid in-person model, where students can attend two days per week in-person with three days per week remote. The school day will be approximately one hour shorter than your traditional school day, which is the same as the in-person K-2 or grade 6 option now.
If you would like your child to attend in-person, they will be assigned to either attend on Monday & Tuesday or on Thursday & Friday. We are hoping to make those assignments soon.
If your child is already in-person five days per week, they will remain at five days, and will get in-person instruction for two of those days while doing their remote learning at their school the other three days.
SHS High School Students: For our High School students, they will also be assigned to either attend on Monday & Tuesday or on Thursday & Friday. The High School school day will run on the regular schedule. If your child is already in-person five days per week, they will remain at five days and will get in-person instruction for two of those days while doing their remote learning at their school the other three days.
SPS will continue to follow all health and safety measures in school, including asking families to complete home health checks, maintaining physical distancing, regular hand washing, and requiring masks. This new, in-person option will begin sometime in January, informed by community and school health data, with the final date determined by School Committee on Monday, December 7th.
THIS WILL BE CONSIDERED A FINAL DECISION.
This form must be completed by 3:00pm on Monday, December 14th.
Your next opportunity for your students to begin in-person instruction will be February 8th or March 15th, 2021, depending on the final start date. Switching from in-person to remote will be available but you must make arrangements through your school's principal ahead of time to be able to make this switch.
Schedule adjustment for hybrid students in grades 6 and 9
Surveillance COVID-19 Testing
In October, just under 300 Salem Public School employees participated in a COVID-19 testing baseline screening prior to the return to the classroom for grades K-2. None of our employees tested positive. Now, building on that model, Salem Public Schools, in-person employees are eligible to participate in a pooled testing program being conducted weekly through the company Mirimus. Salem will be the second school district in Massachusetts – after Wellesley – to offer this testing option.
In Salem, all school employees who are working in a school building, as well as all in-person high school students, are eligible to participate. We began with staff this week and will open it up to interested High School Students next week. Again, participation is optional, but we hope to have as many people as possible to help add this additional layer of support to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19.
Thank you to those who helped us set up and get ready for testing! We had parents and staff come together Wednesday to support launching testing this week, and we could not have done it without their help. Your time is valuable and we appreciate you helping us pack up the tests for distribution to our schools.
Dismissal times for December 9th Early Release
SHS- 12:15 pm
Horace Mann- 11:35 am
Carlton- 12:00 pm
Bentley- 11:20 am
Witchcraft- 12:00 pm
Saltonstall- 11:30 am
Bates- 11:20 am
Collins- 12:30 pm
ECC- 1:00 pm
Salem Prep- 12:30 pm
New Liberty- 1 pm
District ELL Family Night, Thursday, Dec. 10, 6:30pm
The Salem Public Schools English Language Learner Department is hosting a Virtual Family Night for parents of children learning English as a second language. Any parent or guardian of an English Language Learner is invited to attend!
The Virtual Family Night will take place on Thursday, December 10, at 6:30 pm on Zoom. Come share your good ideas and the challenges you face with other families!
Zoom link: tinyurl.com/salemel
To join by phone, call: +1-301-715-8592 then press 98338160001#
Together we can!
Aspen Family Portal
By now you should have received notification that the Aspen Family Portal has been opened for all grades (except at the Bentley Academy Innovation School), which is new for Pre-K-8. Aspen is our web-based student information system. Key information about each student including contact information, demographics, attendance records, grades, student schedules, and more is all stored within our Aspen system. Be sure to check and verify your contact information and report any errors to your school's front office staff.
As of November 20th, all Salem parents and/or legal guardians do have password-protected access to their students’ information via the Aspen Family Portal. Your child’s report card will be posted in the family portal and this is where you will view it. Paper report cards will no longer be sent home unless a parent or guardian requests a paper copy.
If you have questions, please contact your school’s front office.
Flu Vaccine Guidance
We would like to provide you with a reminder of the influenza vaccination guidance that is expected for all learners by the end of December. Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health established this requirement as a way to reduce the spread of the flu and to reduce the risk of hospitalizations. Parents and guardians are asked to provide proof of the flu vaccine to the nurse at your child’s school no later than December 31, 2020.
As always, thank you for your continued partnership and support to keep our students healthy and safe. Please contact me or the nurse at your child’s school if you have any further questions.
Dr. Charlene Moske- Weber, SPS Director of Nursing and Health Services
Parent Advisory Council
This week we had our first meeting of our new Parent Advisory Council to the School Committee. The purpose of the Salem Parents Advisory Council is to ensure that parents representing each school and parent advisory groups have an organized voice in the district, that parents are involved in the decision-making process as allowed by law and procedures, and that parents’ collective needs, concerns, and issues are communicated, addressed by, and resolved before the School Committee and Superintendent regularly and effectively. We are looking forward to having diverse parent voices play a role in our conversations around district priorities and thank those who have taken on this role.
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.”
This week, the cone of excellence goes to Lynn Rosedale who is the ELL Supervisor at Salem High School. For the first few months of the year, Lynn has fulfilled her own position as well as that of the District’s ELL Director position. There has been no shortage of challenges between COVID, reopening plans, launching a new dual-language program, etc. Lynn has remained ably on top of them all and did an outstanding job making sure that all of our EL students and families were well supported during this transition.
ParentSquare has launched
Please see your email for sign up information and how to register for the full ParentSquare experience If you are not receiving information through ParentSquare, contact your school's front office to make sure your information is correct.
ParentSquare provides tools such as 2-way conversations with your classroom teachers, the ability to choose how and when you receive communication, 1-to-1 translation to your preferred language, and more. This is how the schools will communicate with families districtwide going forward. You can visit www.parentsquare.com for more information.
Save the date! Kindergarten Expo Town Hall
Join us at a town-hall-style Kindergarten Expo on January 21, 2021, from 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm to discover what our elementary schools are all about. Stay tuned 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your appointment.