School resource officers will deliver backpacks to 1,100 students this week

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 28, 2020

By Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY — The 1,100 students Rowan-Salisbury Schools has not been able to reach since in-person classes ended will receive hand-delivered backpacks this week full of learning materials to try and engage them.

The backpacks are a grade-specific attempt to keep students learning who have not been reached yet. Schools sorted them on Monday, and school resource officers are scheduled to deliver them Wednesday and Friday.

“It gives them enough materials for several weeks,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Julie Morrow.

Morrow said the district will continue with learning and trying to connect with students. And unless a student was already being assessed to stay in the same grade when schools closed in March, he or she will be promoted to the next grade level.

Last week the state released official guidance on alternative grading for students. Notably, high school students, with the exception of seniors, will be given the option to receive a number, not a letter grade, which will count toward their grade-point average or an option that will not affect GPA. Before the state released its memo, RSS administration was already advising they did not want to retain students in the same grade solely because of e-learning.

“If there was any conversation about a child being retained, it needs to have occurred long before any of this occurred,” Morrow said.

Superintendent Lynn Moody formed a team to create a plan for “re-entry” next school year, anticipating schools will be allowed to open by August. The team began work late last week and is examining how to return classes to normal after more than two months of closure.

Moody said there will be a combination of students who did not participate in e-learning, those who excelled and others who struggled with remote work all returning to school and the district has to serve all of them.

The district’s remote learning depends on devices issued by the schools, and the district’s help desk has been receiving about 100 calls a day and is seeing 80 devices a week at its repair depots.

Chief Technology Officer David Blattner said the number of calls has leveled off, though the number of people coming to the repair depots on Tuesdays and Thursdays has increased.

“I think part of it is just word getting out,” Blattner said.

Blattner said the department wants families to contact the help desk as much as they can. Sometimes the user does not understand what he or she is seeing and a technician needs to walk them through it, he said. The repair depots are intended for device repairs and swaps.

Most issues the technology department has been dealing with come from elementary school students. The students may not understand the device as well as older students, and normally K-2 students only use their devices in class. When they were given to those students to take home, each device had to be set up to work on the home network.

Blattner said the schools have been attempting to get some mobile hotspots to help with connectivity issues, but many are on back order, and one provider may work well for one part of the county but have poor reception in another.

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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