Rowan-Salisbury Schools reflects on first week as it looks ahead to continued closure

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 21, 2020

SALISBURY – Local kids have been home this week after a minimum, mandated two-week closure, and keeping them learning and fed during that period has been a challenge, school officials say.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools began making plans for a possible closure one week ago, shortly after Gov. Roy Cooper’s mandate. But, along with the rest of the districts in the state, the district was caught off guard by the surprise mandate from Cooper on Saturday afternoon. Leadership at Rowan-Salisbury Schools came together virtually on Saturday after the announcement and made plans quickly to move all students to eLearning as well as come up with a plan to deliver meals to students who may not be able to eat otherwise.

On Monday, the district distributed learning materials and belongings to students. On Tuesday, it began meal deliveries.

Superintendent Lynn Moody said she thinks the first days have gone smoothly. And she’s noticed somewhat of a trend. Moody said some students have asked to stay in virtual classes after they end for the day just to get some of the social interaction they are missing while being outside of the classroom.

“It’s been a real challenge because people are social and need that human interaction,” Moody said.

Moody said the district is working on refining its meal delivery process, which delivered about 24,000 meals (breakfast and lunch for 12,000 people) on Friday, to make it more efficient and use less staff in the field while delivering the same or more meals. Moody said she has had an influx of thankful emails from parents and community members — some serious and some humorous — commenting on the meal delivery.

School Nutrition Director Lisa Altmann said the operation was running smoothly by Thursday and the number of meals distributed by the school has increased each day.

“We are going to sit back this weekend and kind of reflect on the week, see if there is anything we can do going forward to keep the people who are on the front lines safe,” Altmann said.

Altmann said car rider pickup lines for meals have become much more popular. Initially, bus deliveries were making up the majority of deliveries, but more people began taking advantage of pickup at schools as the week went on. Altmann said she is not surprised how smoothly the new program has gone because the district follows a similar model for its summer feeding program, though on a smaller scale.

“We’re all working for the same end goal, to make sure the kids in Rowan County are served meals,” Altmann said.

Meals are free for all students, and can claim meals for younger siblings who are not school age as well.

Chief Technology Officer David Blattner said the district’s technology department resolved nearly 400 help requests on Thursday, which was the first official eLearning day for students. Some of that was due to K-2 students adapting to using their iPads at home. The lower grades normally use tablets in school but do not take them home, but the older students all have take-home devices.

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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