PRESS RELEASE: Saline Area Schools Announce Additional In-Person Learning

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(This press release was issued by Saline Area Schools)

On Tuesday, March 9th, 2021, Interim Superintendent Steve Laatsch, PhD, announced the timeline for additional in-person learning for Saline Area Schools (SAS) students in grades 4-12. Starting Monday, April 5th, all students who selected the in-person learning model will attend full school days at their school on Monday through Thursday.

This timeline follows the recently announced return for Y5-3rd grade students, who will begin the four day format next Monday, March 15th. The staggered start for four day in-person instruction between the Y5-3 and 4-12 groups allows staff to evaluate the implementation of the learning model with younger grades and prepare safe operations before the expanded in-person schedule starts with older students.

The decision stems from a number of factors that have been consistently monitored, with a majority of the SAS COVID-19 data trends measuring as “excellent.” The Return to Learn metrics include: virus spread within the buildings, number of identified close contacts and individuals in quarantine, hygiene protocols, mask wearing, the 14-day positivity rate, and the vaccination process for staff.

The Return to Learn data and social-emotional wellness of students indicate the time is right to add more in-person learning. According to Dr. Laatsch, “In addition to many of our data points showing as excellent, we recognize the impact this pandemic has had on the social and emotional health of our students. The support from our school counselors and social workers will be a point of emphasis.”

To ensure student and staff safety, SAS will continue implementing mitigation strategies and safety measures such as mask wearing, daily staff screening, hand hygiene, disinfecting, contact tracing, and building ventilation. However, given the increased number of people in school buildings, physical distancing will be difficult to maintain in learning spaces throughout the day.

Virtual students in grades 7-12 should expect to participate alongside in-person classmates through synchronous instruction Monday-Thursday when the shift to four day in-person learning occurs. Fridays remain asynchronous for all students, and will require engagement from both students and staff. The asynchronous format allows students to meet individually or in small groups with staff members. In particular, virtual students may connect in meaningful ways with their teachers or special education service providers. Asynchronous Fridays also allow for the preparation of learning experiences specific to subject, grade level, and student needs (e.g., “specials'' teachers time to record video lessons, general education teachers time to digitize lessons, staff professional development, and special education service providers' connection with virtual students and/or collaboration with general education teachers on Individual Educational Plans).

For the remainder of the school year, virtual students may continue in virtual learning. However, their lessons and special education services will look different than the previous model. Any students or families who are uncomfortable with the expanded in-person model may choose to join the virtual model to conclude the year.

Saline Area Schools intends to return to full (five days-a-week), in-person learning for all students in the fall.

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