Rowan-Salisbury Schools will provide work for students, deliver meals during closure

Published 7:42 pm Sunday, March 15, 2020

By Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY – “Somebody help me here,” said Rowan-Salisbury Schools Superintendent Lynn Moody as she looked around at a room of other educators spaced far apart from each other.

Moody was referencing getting together printed instructions for K-2 students to log in and using iPads at home. She and other district staff spent a long day on Sunday discussing and working on plans for when schools shutter Monday. Gov. Roy Cooper on Saturday ordered all schools closed for at least two weeks.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools will follow that order. But while school facilities are closed, the district will expect students to complete work that has been prepared. It also plans to deliver meals. Teachers and staff will continue to work during the period. Paychecks will continue to be distributed.

Students in grades 3-12 already have devices issued to them. K-2 students use devices in class but normally do not take them home. During the closure, all students, except for those in county pre-K programs, will be issued devices during the closures. The district will keep track of iPads going to lower-grades students by serial number.

Teachers will work Monday to prepare. Buses will deliver items students need at their regular drop off times on Monday afternoon, and there will be periods during the day for families of car riders to come retrieve items from schools as well. Adults will have to accompany students at bus stops to receive iPads.

Moody advised that, while high school students have hotspots, the district is trying to bridge the digital divide for some younger students, noting Wi-Fi can be accessed from outside schools, parks and businesses. Students can download assignments, work on them without internet access and return to internet access later to turn assignments in, she said.

Pre-K to 2 students will also receive packets in addition to the iPads. Those packets will include some standardized items as well as material specific to the student. The 4,900 packets were sorted, stapled, bagged and packed into boxes by school employees on Sunday morning.

The packets include at least two weeks of activities to do at home, said RSS Director of Federal Programs Jerri Hunt as he stood in an empty office at the district’s Carter Building. Hunt said the goal was to make the activities age-appropriate and fun.

“We stayed away from worksheets,” Hunt said. “We didn’t want to do the drill and kill. We wanted to do things that kids could be engaged in.”

Hunt said she is “amazed” the district was able to get organized for closure so quickly.

Millbridge Elementary School Principal Jordan Baker was one of the people who came to pick up boxes of packets for his school. He said the school staff will meet Monday morning to get everything ready to distribute to kids.

Baker said Millbridge started preparing during a teacher workday on Friday, anticipating something like this could happen. School system staff were given instructions last week to ask about items like internet access for students in preparation.

“They’ve been working on plans and how we’re going to get it to kids and how we’re going to be able to communicate,” Baker said.

The district has also created plans for its employees to continue to perform their jobs outside of buildings.

“The way we’re looking at it we’re really not stopping,” Moody said.

The state could not give districts a final answer during a call Sunday afternoon on how the General Assembly would handle the aftermath of the closures and whether all the missed days would be forgiven. The state sets calendar rules for school districts and minimum instructional hours. Make-up days happen when a district misses too many days and drops below the minimum instructional hours to meet that threshold.

Meal delivery will begin along bus routes to students on Tuesday. Instead of picking up children to take to school, bus drivers will drop off lunch and breakfast at homes.

At this point, there are no plans for the district to provide childcare for young students during the day.

“It sounds like the governor’s office would really like for us to be able to provide some childcare for health care workers, but they don’t have a plan for it yet and we certainly don’t have a plan for that, so we’ll wait for the state to take the lead,” Moody said.

Moody said she is proud of district staff. They have been running on adrenaline because the mission is so important, she said.

“It’s just a get-it-done staff,” Moody said. “It has been, ever since I’ve been here that’s been the one thing I’ve enjoyed the most is working with this team. This is a very strong administrative team. They really care about children.”

The district will still have an emergency meeting to discuss COVID-19 on Monday afternoon, but employees and community members are encouraged tune in to the meeting online rather than attending in person.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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