Salem Schools Update

News for our families from Salem Public Schools

A note from Steve Zrike, Superintendent


Dear families,

Since this is our final newsletter of the calendar year, I am writing to wish you and your families the happiest and healthiest holiday season. I hope that this is a peaceful and restful time that affords you the opportunity to celebrate your most treasured traditions. For me, it will be eating Carne de Puerco (pork), yuca, black beans, and rice and flan after singing Cuban holiday songs on Christmas Eve. While this year I will not be able to be in person with my extended family, our celebration will continue virtually so that my children can remain connected to their heritage and roots. Regardless of what you celebrate, I sincerely hope that you can maintain the rituals and routines that are so special to your families.

Additionally, I want to wish our Salem community a Happy New Year. We are all eager to see 2020 end and look forward to the hope that 2021 brings with a COVID vaccine on the horizon. In 2021, we are eager to see all of our students back in classrooms ready to reconnect with the entire school community. We can’t wait for this momentous occasion!

In the more immediate, school resumes on January 4th. As a reminder, this first week back (Jan. 4th-Jan 8th) will be a fully remote week for all students so that we can COVID test students and staff prior to the return to in-person school on Monday, January 11th. In the next few days, we will be providing a schedule for testing (on Jan. 4th-6th) and we ask that all students avail themselves of this opportunity. It is critically important that we test as many students as possible in an effort to reduce the potential of community COVID spread and school exposure following the holidays. We appreciate your commitment to partner with us to keep our city safe and healthy as we navigate the final months of this life-changing pandemic.

Enjoy the upcoming winter recess,


Food Distribution During Holiday Break Update

We want to provide an update to the community on the following changes for Food Services during the holiday season. The realization of food insecurity in Salem is stronger than ever and we want to make sure everyone who needs access to food can get it.

  • We will continue to distribute food through the holiday break.

  • Horace Mann will have food distribution at the front door, not the back door, as long as the Covid testing is going on at the high school

  • On Monday 12/21/20 we will be serving 2 days of food at all school distribution locations.

  • On Wednesday 12/23/20 we will be serving 7 days of meals (mostly scratch-made frozen microwave meals).

  • On Wednesday 12/30/20 we will be serving 5 days of meals along with limited Farm Bags for this day only

  • Our regular schedule will resume on 1/4/21.

Hybrid Model Information

We have been collaboratively building our hybrid models for grades 3-8 for the January 11th return to school date. To do so, the district has met with principals and teachers, and school-based teams are working to design their school-specific model.

  • The district has established guidance and common expectations within which schools are designing the best model to meet the specifics for their students and staff.

    • The most important district common expectation is that students will have, on average, at least two hours of live instruction on their remote days (e.g., Thursday and Friday). Wednesdays should be a full day of remote instruction that looks similar to Wednesdays today.

    • This ensures students still have five days of access to new material and teacher instruction, and then are able to do their independent practice effectively on those days. This is the element we wanted to ensure was possible as we transition to hybrid.

  • Different schools are innovating in different ways for what this may look like based on their staffing and their family responses. For example:

    • In some schools or at some grade levels, schools may create a fully remote homeroom dedicated to their fully remote students. Those classrooms will look predominantly like the remote learning your students have today.

    • In some schools or at some grade levels, schools will maintain their departmentalized instruction (one teacher teaches math and a different teacher teaches English), and students, whether in-person or remote, will still rotate through their teachers in a day. Some of these schedules may include all remote students (both fully remote and hybrid remote) zooming into classrooms and teachers working with all students for the whole day, and others may have schedules designed to rotate between smaller groups in-person and remote.

Schools are working hard to design the best answers for students. They are innovating and collaborating internally to identify and design creative solutions.

We know that it is hard to make decisions before you know the details, but, especially due to the specific physical constraints of how many students can be in an in-person classroom. That’s why the answers are truly designed based on your responses. We appreciate everyone who provided this information.

If you are in the less than 10% of families who have not yet responded, your child will be assigned to remote instruction on Monday, December 21st if we do not hear from you by 3pm.

We also want to emphasize that we will do our best to meet requests for changes, but we are designing these answers based on the school choice you make for your student.


Salem Public Schools works closely with the Salem Board of Health on test results and contact tracing efforts.

Any school-aged child who tests positive in the city is uploaded by the Salem Board of Health to a shared resource document for review by Salem Public Schools nurses. Nurses in each school identify which students attend their school and then determine if they are an in-person or remote learner.

If they are deemed as a remote learner per their status in Aspen, nurses also check to see if the student is in any partner program (YMCA, Boys and Girls Club) as an additional safeguard. These students are classified as remote students on the district dashboard.

In-person students are also identified according to their Aspen status. When a positive student or staff member who is teaching, working, or learning in-person is identified, they are classified as in-person on the district dashboard. Each school has a COVID response team. When a positive case is identified, the team immediately identifies possible close contacts among staff, students, and/or on the bus. Close contacts are provided with state quarantine information and dismissed ASAP to begin quarantine.

Contact tracing at our schools has been very successful. Our nurses determine the classrooms the individual may have been in based on seating charts, attendance, and schedules and contact those who have been determined to be close contacts. Our nursing team has had a 100% success rate contacting those who need to quarantine based on school exposure.

Should an individual who is teaching, working, or learning in-person at our schools test positive, they are classified as “in-person” teachers, staff, or students, not remote. If they are quarantined as a result of an exposure and then test positive, their status is still reported on the dashboard as ‘in-person’ reflective of their role in the school.

If a positive test of a student or staff member is a result of exposure in the school, that would create a cluster (two or more cases in a classroom). If a cluster is suspected, the local Board of Health is notified. They in turn notify the state. Depending upon a variety of circumstances, and in consultation with a state epidemiologist, further action from the local and state health departments varies. In the one case of a cluster at WHES, because the entire class was quarantined as a precautionary measure, no further action was necessary. If a cluster were to make an impact on a classroom or school, close contacts would be determined and notified by phone, school-wide notification would take place, and this information would be added to the dashboard

COVID testing for students in January

Next week we will provide information about our plan to test all students prior to in-person learning on Jan. 11th. We will be offering voluntary but highly encouraged testing for all Salem Public Schools students on Jan. 4th, 5th, and 6th. These testing sites will be drive-up and there will be a walk-up option offered. We are committed to offering free testing to our students and staff prior to bringing more students back to in-person learning on January 11th.

Look out for details about an informational webinar happening this Tuesday!

Shadowing Nurses

Dr. Zrike has been shadowing the nursing team this week to see the extraordinary work they are doing in schools at this time. Our school nurses have risen to the difficult tasks put before them in this time of COVID response. We are in awe of the incredible work our nursing team does.

Skipper ride program

The City of Salem has launched a new ride service called Skipper. The Salem Skipper works like a minibus that comes when you want, where you want. Riders can hail a ride on their mobile device with the Salem Skipper app, available for iPhone and Android, or by calling (844) 983-1842. Riders will enter a desired pickup and drop-off address to book a ride and will receive vehicle information and an estimated pickup time and location.

This service is available to students 13 years old and up with parental consent.

New riders will get their first 10 trips free until February 16. After that, rides are $2 for the general public and $1 for seniors, students, and people with disabilities. The service will be available 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, visit and download the free app from the App Store or Google Play.

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.”

The cone of excellence this week goes to Horace Mann Math Coach, Lisa Agocs. Ms. Agocs does an exemplary job of facilitating collaboration among colleagues during professional learning time. She is constantly sharing resources and ideas with teachers so that they can more effectively meet the needs of their students. She goes out her way to assist her peers, whether they are in person or remote, so that they can grow in their teaching practice.

SHS Band Virtual Holiday Tour

Most of you know that the high school band goes on tour the week before vacation "caroling" throughout the hallways at all of our schools and at the Senior Center. Our music department, headed by Cynthia Mapierkowski, is trying to keep every tradition going in this remote world and they have put together a video of holiday music with student introductions to share with everyone.

We look forward to returning to our in-person tour next fall.

2020-2021 SHS Band Holiday Tour

Important Flu Vaccine Information

We would like to remind you about 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 an influenza vaccine requirement for all students as a way to reduce the spread of the flu and to reduce the risk of hospitalizations. Parents and guardians need to provide proof of the flu vaccine to the nurse at your child’s school no later than December 31, 2020.

Failure to provide this documentation will affect the ability of your child to attend any in-person learning opportunities with Salem Public Schools.

See answers to frequently asked questions and how to submit your vaccine documentation here.


No Newsletter Next week. Enjoy your holiday break!


North Shore Area Christmas Dinners Available

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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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