For elementary students, up to three hours online and family check-ins

The Salem-Keizer School District provided a graphic on what elementary parents and students can expect for the start of the school year (Submitted).

Salem-Keizer elementary schools will officially start their comprehensive distance learning on Tuesday, Sept. 15. After spending the last several months planning for online learning, the district has laid out what parents and student should expect school days to look like.

“These are our best laid plans. But we know that, down the road, we might need to adjust based on what the needs are,” said Heidi Litchfield, one of the directors of elementary education for Salem Keizer Public Schools (SKPS).

Tuesday through Friday, elementary students will start the day with live sessions of teacher-facilitated, applied learning. For a minimum of 60-90 minutes — and a maximum of three hours — teachers will work with their students on a variety of different topics, including: reading, writing, social emotional learning, English language development and math.

Students will also be participating in either a music or physical education session every day.

“We didn’t want the kids to be at the computer for six hours per day. There needed to be boundaries around the amount of time applied learning took place,” Litchfield said.

Litchfield also said that teachers can personalize schedules, so while each instructor will have a certain list of expectations that they are required to meet, the specifics of schedules will vary from school to school and class to class.

For approx.60 to 90 minutes per day, on Tuesday through Friday, students will also be working on assignments related to live sessions, either independently, or with the help of their teacher or instructional assistant. Additionally, at least for the month of September, teachers will also hold family check-ins four days per week

“It’s just to make sure families are connecting and getting access to our systems and to make sure families are doing ok,” Litchfield said. “We want teachers to use this time to listen to the needs of the children and parents,”

The priorities for teacher check-ins are based on school engagement, so if a student has missed class or doesn’t have access to certain materials, those kids would be at the top of the list of priorities for teacher engagement.

“We assume it’s going to be a little bit bumpy at first,” Litchfield said.

Each Monday will be a student support day. No synchronous learning will take place on Mondays. Instead, students will be working independently, but there will be targeted, in-person small group instruction that takes place.

From now until mid-October, the small group instruction will be designated for special education students in a one-on-one classroom environment.

“For September, we’re focusing on kids who can’t access online instruction without support,” Litchfield said. “There is also testing for SPED students that has to be done in person.”

The district also plans to have music and P.E lessons on Mondays. 

Starting in October, after gathering assessment information, the district is hoping to use Mondays as in-person small group time for those in need of support — in-person groups are likely to be five people or less.

“Everyone gets the same scoop of ice cream Tuesdays through Fridays. Mondays are for the kids that need an extra scoop,” Litchfield said.

Over the last week, schools have been scheduling times to either retrieve personal items, or to pick up items needed for school. During this time, each elementary student will pick up a mass workbook for their classes.

Parents and students also have access to HomeCoach, an online support system the district is offering to answer parent and student questions, as well as give access to training and give technical assistance.

“HomeCoach is there to make sure parents have access to all kids or training and technical support. We will continue to add things to it as the year goes on,” Litchfield said.

“This is new to all of us, so we just need to work as hard as we can to support each other.”