The Salem School Board practiced responsible social distancing when it met for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak. During the March 31 meeting, Superintendent, Alan Seibert, presented the board members with a detailed report outlining the first 10 days since traditional classroom learning morphed into something completely different for our students and teachers. Here are the details.
On Friday, March 13, 2020, Governor Northam ordered a two-week closure of PK-12 Schools in the Commonwealth to slow the spread of COVID-19. On Monday, March 23, 2020, the closure was extended through the end of SY 2019-2020.
On Monday, March 30, 2020, Governor Northam issued a “Stay at Home” Order. This order included provisions that the division meal deliveries continue.
Although students are not in school buildings, school is still in session. Further, the Vision, Mission, and Core Values of the Salem City School Board have not changed even as the method of delivering the Board’s mission has changed significantly.
From the outset of the initial closure, the division established a primary and a secondary goal.
Primary Goal - To provide hope, engagement, a sense of routine, a measure of normalcy, and connectedness.
Secondary Goal - To provide opportunities for students to make academic progress...to continue to learn and grow.
Continuity of Food Services
The USDA issued waivers regarding food service delivery to permit and encourage the delivery of meals to all persons 18 years of age and younger. In just one day (Monday, March 16, 2020), the Food Services and Transportation Departments completely redesigned operations to prepare and deliver student meals. Day 1 of Meal Delivery began on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Each daily delivery includes two meals, lunch for the current day and breakfast for the next morning.
For the first 9 days of meal delivery, 24 bus routes were running throughout the city, however that was reduced on day 10, March 30, 2020 to reduce the number of staff on buses and streamline an already efficient process. During the first 10 days, 16,221 bags, containing 32,356 meals were delivered in the city.
Continuity of Instruction
Connectivity & Technology
Families without existing Internet connections were encouraged via phone calls, emails and brochures delivered with food delivery to sign up for Comcast Internet Essentials which is now free for 2 months and is $9.95/month afterward. Families were also made aware of more than 100 free public hotspots being offered in Salem by Comcast.
Families were surveyed to determine how many students in grades 3-12 did not have convenient access to Internet resources to be used for instruction with the Chromebooks. The results are very encouraging with more than 99% of students having convenient access to Internet resources. The remaining are being assisted as they sign up for Internet access.
- East Salem Elementary 207 /207 (100% with internet connectivity)
- G.W. Carver Elementary 213/215 (99.1% with internet connectivity)
- South Salem Elementary 219 / 221 (99.1% with internet connectivity)
- West Salem Elementary 228 / 228 (100% with internet connectivity)
- Andrew Lewis Middle 917 / 927 (98.9% with internet connectivity)
- Salem High School - 1263/1272 (99.3% with internet connectivity)
Chromebook Devices & Usage
901 Chromebooks and chargers were distributed to students in Grades 3-5 for use at home. Students in grades 6-12 were already using their Chromebooks at home. A sitewide temporary license for Zoom remote video-conferencing was established to facilitate remote instruction. A dozen other instructional applications that are now offered temporarily for free were added to our “Clever” offering of instructional software applications.
Instructional Delivery: Pre-K-2
The students in preschool through second grade receive packets of instructional materials. The focus to this point has been to maintain skills and keep students connected to school. After spring break n ew packets with new and review instructional standards will be sent out to students on April 17 and May 1, 15, 29. Teachers continue to contact students each week to keep students connected and offer support.
Instructional Delivery: Grades 3-12
The primary instructional goals between March 23 and April 3 are to ensure that students can access instructional content, participate in class sessions, and use online tools to complete assignments. As a result, most content during this time has been and will continue to be review material (with a few exceptions). Teachers will begin sharing new content on April 14, after spring break. Teachers have been advised to focus on the most essential knowledge and skills in their courses. The division’s expectation is that students will participate in class sessions when they are scheduled and complete assigned work. Teachers will monitor participation and contact the families of students who are not participating to provide additional encouragement and support for their learning. There will be no class sessions April 6-April 13 (Spring Break). Teachers will reach out to students without internet connectivity to ensure that these students are receiving instruction and getting feedback.
Feedback and Grading
The division’s expectation is that teachers will continue to provide feedback in order to help students learn and grow. That feedback will at times take the form of grades. Other times the feedback will be more descriptive in nature. Both forms of feedback, grades and descriptive, will be useful for communicating student progress to students and parents.
We understand that school closures and online learning will likely present some unique challenges for students. We do not want circumstances beyond a student’s control to negatively impact students’ learning and, therefore, grades. We expect teachers to work with students and families individually to address these challenges to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to continue to grow academically. We also expect students and families to take full advantage of the opportunities provided and to promptly communicate challenges encountered with teachers.
Courses for Graduation Credit at SHS and ALMS
Link to DOE Guidance for Credit Bearing Courses
Graduation Cohort 2020 - The VDOE has waived many graduation requirements. Specific information on these waivers is available on the above link. These waivers are intended for students who were on track to graduate to be able to do so.
Graduation Cohort 2021 or After - Based on VDOE guidance, SCS will award standard credit for high school credit-bearing classes at ALMS and SHS by ensuring that students have completed a majority of required standards, competencies, and objectives, including those that are essential for success in subsequent coursework. As well, any student currently enrolled in a high-school bearing course during the 2019-20 school year who has received the standard credit may be awarded a locally-awarded verified credit. These locally awarded credits will not count toward the cap on locally awarded credits.
The EL Parent-Resource Coordinator has been in frequent communication with the EL Community during the rapidly changing circumstance regarding local updates. In addition, the EL teachers have been communicating with the EL families and students about school specific information including the language of academics. Moreover, SCS has made every reasonable effort to provide and document the provision of educational continuity and the provision of access for students with disabilities whether through IDEA or 504. Specifically, reviewing compatibility and accessibility for students with disabilities to online learning for students with disabilities. This has included reviewing IEPS and 504 plans. The emphasis has been on equity for all students.
Student Services continues to partner with the Department of Instruction to meet the needs of special education students, the medically fragile, the English Learner, and other diverse learners.
With over 550 employees serving in numerous roles and job descriptions, there are a number of unique circumstances that are beyond the scope of this summary. In general, SCS is following the state's example and guidance of doing everything possible to honor contracts and notices of employment.
Although students and teachers are not in school buildings during the closure, school is still in session. The delivery method of our School Board's mission has changed drastically, but the commitment to fulfilling that mission hasn't wavered and the division couldn’t be more proud of the flexibility and commitment of the Board’s employees. We are asking the Board’s employees to perform their jobs and execute tasks in new locations, knowing that their assigned duties are evolving and constantly changing. Employees have embraced new and changing job responsibilities with enthusiasm and a willingness to help. The H.R. and Business Offices are receiving, organizing and implementing changing guidance and directives from the state and federal governments for all employees while also working directly with employees who have a number of unique circumstances.
The Federal Stimulus package that was approved by Congress late on March 25, 2020 included an estimated $240 M in additional funding for Pre-K-12. While it will take time for the method of delivery and an evaluation of the restrictions and limitations on this revenue to be known, the prospect of direct financial support for local education agencies is helpful. Much like the ARRA funding during the Great Recession, the stimulus funding should help the division build a “bridge” or “glide path” to new operational realities. It is to be noted that this funding stream will be one-time funds and not to be used for recurring needs. This is similar to how the ARRA funds were distributed and handled.
The State has directed divisions to track all expenses related to COVID-19 as they are expecting funds to be available to be reimbursed at some point. There are no specifics on this as of yet, but we are tracking additional hours and expenses related. There are also changes coming for FMLA that will assist employees if they can’t work due to having the COVID-19, are caring for an immediate family member who has the COVID-19, or if they are caring for a child that can’t go to school because the school is closed. This is being monitored for impact and implementation and is slated to be effective on April 1, 2020.