Latest reopening plans outlined for Salem schools

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Photo by Shawn Nowlin
On August 31, Salem City Schools will start the academic year with two four-day weeks.

Shawn Nowlin
shawn.nowlin@ourvalley.org

Most of Virginia’s public school divisions have elected to start the upcoming year with students taking in-person classes only part-time. The Salem School District – comprised of four elementary schools (East Salem, West Salem, GW Carver, South Salem), one middle school (Andrew Lewis) and one high school (Salem High) – will start the academic year on August 31 with two four-day weeks.

School officials say this period will function as a “soft opening“ in which 25 percent of students in all grades will attend in-person classes once a week. The division plans to expand in-person instruction to five days per week in grades PK-2 and two days per week in grades 3-12 beginning September 14. The division will confirm its plans on Wednesday, September 9. This year, Salem has 15 new teachers.

Approximately 4,000 students are expected to attend Salem City Schools and they have all been assigned an A, B, C or D day for in-person attendance.

Each student has the option of choosing 100 percent virtual learning, a decision that 21 percent of students and their families have already made.

Many parents have questions about the upcoming academic year. Amy Turner, 39, has two children who will be entering the fifth-grade. When asked what she is most concerned about, her response was, “I don’t have a good feeling about COVID-19. I think it’s going to be around a lot longer than people are thinking. If that happens, then what? Will meals still be delivered to families in need? Also, what resources will be available?”

From June 22 through August 14, the Division delivered approximately 60,000 meals throughout the city as part of its Summer Meals Program.

During a recent work session, Assistant Superintendent Curtis Hicks told the School Board that the District made the decision to reduce the number of in-person days based on guidance from the local health department. Salem schools will use their assessments and recommendations from the VDH to decide whether to increase or decrease in-person attendance in the coming weeks.

Gov. Ralph Northam is largely leaving it up to Virginia’s Districts to decide how they reopen in the fall as long as they adhere to physical distancing recommendations and other guidelines related to mitigating the spread of COVID-19.