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Salem schools plan return to classrooms

SALEM — A majority of students and teachers may end up back in the physical classroom this fall at Salem City Schools.

“We plan on opening up schools as normal and as safely as we possibly can for our kids,” Superintendent Sean Kirkland said Monday.

Kirkland talked about the intent to return to the buildings during both the special and regular school board meetings via Zoom video conferencing, saying people are just as eager as the school officials and staff to know what’s going to be happening when it’s time for school to start up again.

The board already adopted the school calendar to start after Labor Day on Sept. 8, giving the administration and staff more time to prepare for what’s to come.

He said about 500 parents in the district answered a survey, that represents about 50 percent of the student population, and the majority want to go back to as normal a schedule as possible. He put the figure at 82 percent, but there was at least 17 to 18 percent who did not want to come back and preferred an online option, which he said they can provide.

The district already has an online learning option for high schoolers called Quaker Tech Academy, but that will be expanded to encompass grades 5-12. A virtual program will be made available for students in the younger grades.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of guidance out of the governor’s office,” he said.

Kirkland said he’s expecting a draft of the governor’s guidelines for schools in the next 10 days. Once the district has that information, they’ll solidify plans and announce more details then.

That’s when he said they’ll address what he referred to as the “hot-button topics” regarding the wearing of face masks or face shields, what will happen on buses and how to handle social distancing. Centers for Disease Control recommendations will be followed.

Board President Carol Hrvatin asked if the option to stay home will apply to teachers who may have a pre-existing condition or health issue. Kirkland said they’ll have to have something showing that there’s an issue.

“Fear in itself is not an option to stay home from school,” he said.

During the special meeting, he reported on some of the permanent improvement projects going on, including painting at the high school. One crew dropped out and another company started Monday. He said the work is going well. The air conditioning project at the high school also started for the library, auditorium and band and choir rooms. LED lighting was being installed in the trophy area and a kiosk for archiving records was being installed.

In financial matters, Kirkland said he’s hearing the hit to the school’s state funding might not be as big as expected. If that’s the case, which they may not know until the end of July, he told the board he wants to bring back three positions that were not filled for next year due to concerns over funding. Those positions included the in-school suspension teacher, the elementary art teacher at Buckeye and the athletic department secretary.

District Treasurer Michael Douglas reported the state funding was down by $136,000 in May and he’s expected to lose twice as much funding in June.

“Hopefully the cuts for next year are not going to be as bad,” he said.

The board approved a pay freeze for all faculty and staff at the Hannah E. Mullins School of Practical Nursing for fiscal year 2021 at 2020 rates, with Douglas saying the nursing school “hemorrhaged money this year,” having to buy computer equipment for distance learning. Class size will be reduced due to spacing issues.

In other action, the board approved kindergarten camp staff for Aug. 17-21 and approved the hiring of three new teachers, Logan Goist and John Likes as integrated science teachers grades 7-12 and Alec Ring as a fifth/sixth grade teacher. Three students were approved for summer graduation and Michelle Bowers and Brenda Blaine were approved as junior class prom supervisors for the Class of 2022.

For athletic supplementals, Kacey Kostal, a Salem grad, was named the varsity head coach for girls volleyball, with Kirkland commenting it’s great to have her back. She played in high school for the Quakers and in college, he said. Candy Kekic was named the ninth grade head volleyball coach and Steve Bailey as a volunteer assistant coach for girls soccer.

The board also accepted the resignation of Jason Lude as an assistant football coach. Lude recently accepted the head football coach position at Western Reserve. Kirkland wished him the best.

Hrvatin offered thanks to the school principals and the teachers for the online teaching that had occurred since March, saying she was impressed with their creativity. She also acknowledged thank-you cards from recent retirees.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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