SPS Reopening Draft Plan

SPS Reopening Draft Plan
Posted on 08/07/2020
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Dear Salem community, 

I am pleased to share our reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year (Spanish, Portuguese).  This plan represents our recommendation for returning Salem Public School children to school this fall.  Over the last two months, the Salem Returns Reopening Task Force has engaged teachers, support staff, health professionals, building leaders and district administrators in ongoing discussions about a safe and educationally sound approach to welcoming our students and staff back to school after the life altering COVID-19 pandemic.  As a group, we have weighed the academic, social and emotional needs of students with important health and wellness considerations for staff and children.  In doing so, we examined scientific/medical research, analyzed parent and staff survey results, reviewed Department of Education (DESE) guidance, conducted assessments of our facilities (capacity, HVAC and outdoor spaces), explored learning managements systems and carefully studied our school-based routines and operations.  The efforts of the task force were supplemented by information received from family, teacher and student town halls, staff focus groups, weekly Facebook Live sessions, meet and greets with parents and regular meetings with school leaders.  

The input collected helped to inform our July 31st submission to the Department of Education detailing the feasibility of SPS providing remote, in-person and hybrid instruction to students.  We put forth a plan for each option and shared this thinking with the School Committee during their July 29th meeting.  In developing this multi-pronged plan, it allowed us to weigh the overall impact of in-person and remote learning for different grades levels.  Ultimately, we decided to make a nuanced recommendation based on the unique needs of the Salem Public Schools community and the latest information from medical professionals.  We believe that this proposal offers us the best opportunity to uphold our district vision and commitment that all students will be locally engaged, globally connected, and fully prepared to thrive in a diverse and changing world.  We are recommending that the majority of our students return to school learning remotely.  Specifically, we believe that our older students (grades 4-12): 

  • Potentially have greater risk to spread COVID-19;
  • Are more negatively impacted by an in-person experience when implementing stronger safety precautions (e.g., stable cohorts, limited transitions);
  • Have a greater ability to access remote instruction;
  • Possess the necessary baseline knowledge to engage online and individualize their learning.   

Given that social isolation remains a real concern with this model, we are planning to offer in-person, small group connecting activities (hopefully outside) for these students at least once a week.  Additionally, we are committed to offering prioritized students the opportunity to receive on-site support (hubs) with remote learning and individual interventions/supports.  

With our youngest students (PreK-grade 3), we are recommending an in-person learning experience for the following reasons:

  • The foundational years (including learning to read and socialization) are critical for lifetime access to learning;
  • The youngest students are believed to be at lower risk for spreading COVID-19;
  • Accessing remote learning is difficult for most young learners;
  • Not being in school can lead to increased risks and requirements for childcare & learning support for the youngest students.  

A child or family that presents as high risk or is uncomfortable with in person learning will have the option of selecting a remote experience led by a Salem Public Schools educator.  

In an effort to assess our progress, we have established a new November break for students during the first week of the month to allow us to evaluate the effectiveness of and make adjustments to our reopening plan.  It is important that we build in time to pivot based on educational impact and the trajectory of the virus.   

I believe that this plan puts into practice our core values of wellness, equity, community, and flexibility with a thoughtful approach to reopening. We look forward to working closely with families, students, staff and SPS union leadership in order to thoughtfully reopen school.  Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing even more detailed information about bussing, student schedules, instructional delivery models, technology and school-based safety routines and protocols.  Please know that there will be multiple opportunities for the SPS community to provide additional feedback, ask questions about our plan and to learn more about what school will look like in the fall.  We appreciate your patience and flexibility as we prepare to resume learning in Salem this September.  Thank you for your unwavering dedication and commitment to the children of our city.  

In partnership,  

 Dr. Stephen K. Zrike Jr. 

Superintendent, Salem Public Schools

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