Today, Governor Northam officially closed schools through the end of the year. After hearing this announcement, I was truly sad for the first time since school closures were originally announced on March 13. I am sad for all of you who will greatly miss your students and I am sad for our students who will miss out on so many experiences and milestones they have been looking forward to, in many cases, for years. Spring sports, junior-senior prom, and graduation are just a few that immediately come to mind for me as the parent of a sophomore and a senior, but I am sure each of you can think of so many more opportunities and experiences that you and your students will miss. Not to mention the time they would normally spend with you and with each other every day.
While there is no way to minimize the impact of this global pandemic on our work, we must keep our work in perspective. Millions of Americans will be adversely affected by this crisis. Many will be infected by the virus themselves or know someone who is, many will lose jobs or their income will be adversely impacted, and some will lose someone they love. For many of our students, school represents the safest, most consistent, most encouraging aspect of their lives. Moving forward, we must be sure that what we do from now through June 12 is a source of hope and encouragement for our students, not an additional burden or source of stress during these uncertain times.
I am sure you are all already thinking about what you and your students “need to get done” between now and the end of the year. I want to encourage you to spend more time thinking about how you and your class can be a source of joy and hope for your students and our community. While there is no doubt that we want students to continue to learn and grow, the stark reality is that academic growth takes a back seat to students’ physical and mental health and their social and emotional well being. If you focus on these aspects first and academic progress second, I think you will be satisfied and fulfilled with your work for the remainder of the year. Think quality over quantity.
In addition to his announcement about schools, the Governor is asking citizens to stay at home as much as possible and to practice social distancing whenever they are in public spaces. With these directives in mind, the division will implement the following practices and procedures.
Central Office Hours: The Central Administrative Office hours will be from 9:00 am-3:00 pm. A schedule has been developed to ensure administrative coverage in the building during office hours. All administrators will be available by email and phone during contracted hours (8:00 am-5:00 pm). Support staff are encouraged to work from home as much as possible and will coordinate their presence in the building with their immediate supervisor.
School Hours: School offices will be open 9:00 am-1:00 pm daily. The building will be staffed by admin and support staff during these hours. Administrators will be available by email and phone during contracted hours (8:00 am-3:30 pm). All teachers in grades 3-12 are strongly encouraged to work from home and should remove necessary items and materials from their classrooms by Friday, March 27. Principals will develop a schedule for PreK-2 teachers to access their rooms to prepare packets. Instructional assistants and administrative support staff will work on a schedule developed by the principal.
To ensure the safety of administrative staff and the public, custodial staff will focus on cleaning common spaces and spaces routinely occupied. All classrooms will be cleaned and closed, and should not be accessed after Friday, March 27th. If you need to access your room, you will need to contact an administrator so the room can be re-cleaned. PreK-2 teachers will have access to rooms on a schedule determined by the principal.
Curtis Hicks, Ed.D.
Salem City Schools