SALAMANCA — With less than three weeks left in the school year, more than 90% of Salamanca’s students are back in the classroom full time.
Come September, district officials are expecting every student attending school in-person with a return to a new normal for the 2021-22 academic year, but there still may be some changes.
At the Board of Education meeting on June 1, Dr. Mark Beehler, deputy superintendent for academics, said administrators have been discussing what that return to school will look like and all the challenges that come with it, but they plan to have regular school days for everyone, even if that means masks and barriers.
Starting in September, Beehler said the overall school calendar and time frame for individual classes and when the day starts and ends should again be how they were pre-COVID.
“What will not be normal is the typical rotation,” he said. “Let’s say in fifth grade, where it’s X number of minutes for math and X number of minutes for social studies, we’re looking at how we can combine that time and utilize it more effectively.”
Beehler said one method is having students in specific groups for different subjects depending on their skill level. For example, a 5th grade student could be in their regular class for all subjects except for a 4th grade math lesson and a 6th grade social studies lesson.
“We’ve talked in the past about mixed classes. We’re looking at doing that across the board, particularly in (Kindergarten) through sixth,” he said. “The reality is we’re going to have some significant gaps, so our interventionists are going to be put to the test.”
As of June 1, about 9% of students have elected not to return full time for the rest of the current school year and are doing hybrid or total virtual learning from home, Beehler said.
“All in all, things are going exceptionally well. I want to extend my gratitude to the staff for the great job they do each and every day,” he added. “Some of the concerns we had in February and March when students were not back are beginning to dissipate.”
Academically, teachers are seeing significant learning improvements in just the couple months students have returned, Beehler explained. Emotionally, there is an increased need in deeper understanding, he said, which means the district needs to address that area differently over the summer and in September.
For students who have struggled or fallen behind in the past year, Beehler said the schedule for summer programming is nearly finalized.
“We start the week of July 12 and we end on Aug. 5. Some of the programs will extend beyond that, and summer school for the high school will start a week before,” he said.
A minimum of four full weeks is planned for students at Prospect Elementary and Seneca Intermediate schools, as well as extra interventions for students as needed, Beehler said. In the high school, Beehler said a variety of opportunities will be available for both students who have struggled the past year or want to get ahead going into the upcoming year.
“We also have athletic camps that will be running as well,” he added. “It’ll be the first summer that we have formalized informal athletics that will run through a range of sports for a range of age groups.”
IN OTHER BUSINESS, the school board approved the superintendent and designees to begin collaboration discussions with the Salamanca Public Library and city of Salamanca for future joint partnerships.
District Superintendent Robert Breidenstein said he has talked with both the library board and city’s mayor in recent months about the potential to work together going forward.
“We believe there are some efficiencies that we can collaborate on that will provide maximum benefit to the community,” he said.