Standardized Assessments. Years ago, we devoted a week only to standardized assessments and were able to suspend our instructional schedules as we quickly completed the requirements associated with our federal, state and district obligations. Now, the assessment windows associated with MCAP, MISA, RI and others extend to weeks and months. Our assistant principal, Ms. Stewart, is working diligently to create a schedule to minimize disruptions and maximize attention to the assessments and instruction. Virtually all these assessments can be accessed only through a computer interface, requiring us to take these machines out of our classroom rotations so that students can take tests. Be aware that our assessment season is upon us; for the next months, students will attend to these assessments even as our teachers and staff work to provide a continuity of instruction in our regular, related arts and physical education classrooms and instructional spaces. As you know, we are an open, welcoming school. We encourage visits to classrooms, but we may have to turn away our parents if our students are fully engaged with assessments.
Mental Health. While our nation recognizes a National Mental Health Awareness Month in May, we continue to be aware that mental health issues plague students, their families and our community. The manifestation of these symptoms in our students lead to behaviors that we must manage. Our teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, student advisors, and our district partners through our pupil personnel workers, directors of health & wellness, and mental health coordinators contribute to our management plans. Our teams meet often to address mis-behaviors, attendance and academic issues associated with students who present with difficulties managing social, instructional and self-management behaviors. Through our discussions with parents, caregivers, therapists and others, we continue to encourage a full team approach to manage behaviors that interrupt instruction, create anxiety, or lead to escalation & confrontation. As we seemingly see more students who present with difficulties, I ask that you engage with your physicians, therapists, psychologists and other service providers as we understand that students’ well-being includes checkups, vaccinations, and assessments of mental health status.
Coronavirus. As we continue to monitor the effects of the coronavirus, our school response is directed by Wicomico County Public Schools which has associated with the local health department and is taking direction from the state of Maryland. Many institutions have implemented many different plans. At this writing, Salisbury University has put in place a plan that includes canceling classes this week, with distance learning experiences through the end of March. A local private school has closed for a few days for disinfecting. As Fruitand Intermediate School continues to provide instruction, meals and other services for our students and families, please consider your plans carefully as you prepare for illness or to implement your own emergency procedures as our district responds to the crisis.
Flu. Our school is experiencing a significant absence rate, not because of the coronavirus, but from the flu. Our nurse has met with virtually all students and staff members to encourage appropriate personal hygiene, especially handwashing, proven to be a significant barrier to disease progression. Our absence rate has been dancing around 10% for a few days, requiring additional cleaning and disinfecting measures, especially in a few classrooms. We continue to monitor our absence rates, continue to engage with parents, continue to support families and students who are sick. Please continue to assess your children daily for signs of illness so that we may keep each other safe and well.