Salem City’s six public schools have a combined enrollment of approximately 4,000 students. Because of the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic, the District has experienced a significant enrollment decline for the 2020 – 2021 academic year. Superintendent Alan Seibert is on record saying that it could take months, possibly years, for every student to get caught up from the pandemic.
“While COVID-19 is far from finished, community transmission of the disease is finally decreasing. As a result, we are engaging our committed staff at each school in brainstorming opportunities and identifying potential obstacles related to increasing the level of in-person instruction that we provide,” Seibert said.
He added, “Salem teachers and staff have risen at every occasion, as evidenced by the fact that many schools in the Commonwealth are working to start doing this year what our schools have been doing since August. Our recent move to have students come to school on Wednesdays for face-to-face instruction has been a huge success with over 400 students now taking advantage of this opportunity.”
The first recorded COVID-19 case in Virginia was on March 7, 2020. One of the most difficult aspects of this entire crisis, said Assistant Superintendent Curtis Hicks, has been the feeling that there is no right answer when it comes to how we should handle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) research shows that kindergarten and first-grade students are at the highest risk for reading failure. The numbers are up ten percent from last year and even higher for Black, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged and English learners, according to the Department of Education.
To give students the best opportunity to succeed, the City of Salem has partnered with the YMCA and Parks and Recreation to offer families the option of three, two-week summer camps, for any student that needs to catch up on their schoolwork. Some students, noted Seibert, might go all six weeks and some might just go two weeks, but regardless, transportation will be provided.
“We believe that transitioning to higher levels of student attendance using layered mitigation strategies is consistent with the most recent guidance from the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and we are absolutely certain that it is the right thing to do for our students,” Hicks said. “We are committed to working with parents and the community to overcome any obstacles and address any concerns as we move forward safely and effectively for the sake of the children we serve.”
More information regarding this story will be reported as it becomes available.