Amesbury Public Schools Update

From the Office of the Superintendent - December 14, 2020

Dear Amesbury Public School Families,

I hope that this communication finds you and your family doing well. I would like to take a moment to thank you for your continued support and patience as we enter our second rotation of hybrid learning at the middle and high schools. AES, CES, and AIHS have served as inspiration and sounding boards for the staff at AMS and AHS. It is this sense of community and commitment to doing what is best for our students that still impresses me, even after fifteen years in the Amesbury Public Schools.


Families continue to do their part in helping us to keep all members of our community safe. Parents and guardians continue to review the health checklist before sending their child(ren) to school. They have successfully communicated with their respective schools when a member of their family has tested positive or when they are a close contact. It is this sense of teamwork that allows us to continue to provide students with the opportunity for in-person learning. For this, I sincerely thank you.


Over the past few weeks, I have maintained my commitment to be visible in the schools. Selfishly, I look forward to interacting with our staff and students and seeing them engage in the learning process. Earlier this week, I walked into several classrooms at the middle school on the first day of in-person learning for that group of teachers and students and was struck by the resiliency of all of the members of our school community. I sincerely appreciate the tremendous amount of flexibility exhibited by everyone.


In both elementary schools, it is clear that all types of routines are embedded in the classrooms and in the school as a whole. Students know what to expect, how to follow safety protocols, and how to interact with one another in appropriate ways. I know that if I walk into CES on Tuesday at 10 am, I will see students working on math. On Thursday at AES, I see students working on ELA and participating in our new literacy program, Wit and Wisdom. Students are eager to share what they have learned with me.


At AIHS and AHS, I see staff and students balancing the interactions between students in the classroom with those who are on the screen. Teachers have taken a variety of approaches as to how they have set up their classrooms to provide students with the best possible experience. Students at home are interacting with students in school. It is extremely encouraging to see this level of engagement for all of our students.


The team cohort approach at AMS appears to be working very well. In this model, the students stay in the same classroom for their content area classes and may travel for some of their EAST classes. It is the teachers who move from class to class. After observing both cohorts for parts of two days, I believe that the students are glad that they continue to be with members of their teams. On Thursday, December 10th, those students who were fully remote had the ability to log into their classes’ Google Meets to access the learning by live streaming. It is essential that the fully remote students and their families continue to have patience as the teachers at AMS, AHS, and AIHS begin and/or continue to learn what works best for them, their students and the overall instruction for all. There will be experimentation regarding the location of the Google Meet device, working to have remote students interact with in-person students, and the sharing of information. All of our staff members sincerely want to provide the best possible learning experience for all of their students. But please understand that this will take time. I ask for your continued patience as teachers work to develop their own routines and strategies to provide live instruction to students in and out of the building at the same time. I am absolutely confident in our staff members’ perseverance and determination to work through the inevitable challenges, please support them as they do so.


Although technology continues to be a challenge for us, we have made considerable progress. One such improvement can be seen in the fact that, at the middle and high school levels, students are able to access wifi on their devices while they are in the school buildings. It is through cooperation with Tim McCue, our IT Director, that we are able to provide this. Access to this technology allows us to continue the collaborative learning that is essential for all students.


I cannot say enough about the level of commitment and determination of our staff in the Amesbury Public Schools. This is an incredibly challenging time to be an educator. I feel extremely fortunate to have such a dedicated, passionate, and caring staff in this district.


Please stay safe and continue to adhere to all safety protocols both in school and in the community. This is especially important as we enter the holiday season.


Thank you,


Elizabeth McAndrews

Acting Superintendent

Free Lunch for ALL Students

Yes, that is correct!

ALL students, regardless of family background are entitled to a free lunch and breakfast each day! When students are in-person, they are able to get lunch and a take home breakfast kit for the next morning. There are snacks, fruit, and other wonderful components to these lunches. When students are remote, their families can pick up a bag with three days worth of food on both Mondays and Wednesdays. This means that each bag contains three breakfasts and three lunches. Interested families can pick up a bag out back at AHS between 11 am to 12:30 pm, on Monday and Wednesday. The district gets reimbursed for every lunch and breakfast that students take. Please take advantage of this opportunity and help Amesbury Public Schools in the process!

Snow Days or Remote Learning Days???

School Year 2020-2021

In October, DESE Commissioner, Jeff Riley provided districts with some choice around snow days during this school year.


"The Commissioner has determined that for this school year only (2020-2021), if there are days when schools must close because of inclement weather or other emergency, districts may choose whether to treat those days as “snow days” to be made up later or provide all students with remote learning on those days in a manner that is consistent with the regulatory requirements listed above. "


At the December School Committee meeting, I asked the School Committee to allow me to have the flexibility to call a traditional "snow day" or to call a "remote learning day." On a traditional snow day, students would not be expected to attend school, but the day would need to be made up at the end of the school year. On a "remote learning day" we would follow the current hybrid learning schedule and students would be expected to attend their classes throughout the day. At the elementary schools, students who are scheduled to be remote that day would remain that way. Students scheduled for in-person learning will receive synchronous instruction. At AMS, AHS, and AIHS, all students will access the learning remotely. A remote learning day would count as a school day and would not have to be made up at the end of the school year.


As one might imagine, there will be factors that impact my decision to call a snow day or a remote learning day. If there is a significant power outage, it would be difficult for students to access the learning remotely, it would make sense to call a traditional snow day. If not, the option to call a remote learning day exists.


Should I need to cancel school due to a weather event, I will be clear in my message as to what type of day it is. It will also be posted on the district's website.


If you have any questions, please feel free to email me elizabeth.mcandrews@amesburyma.org.

Checkpoint #3

According to our District Reopening Plan, we are due to evaluate our current learning model by Friday, December 18th. A School Brains notification will be sent to all families with any relevant changes or updates.

Changes to Community Service Graduation Requirements

As you may know, in addition to earning a predetermined number of credits to be able to graduate, a certain number of community service hours are required as well. Community service is a key component of an Amesbury High School education. We believe that all students should have the experience of giving back to others. This year we have modified our community service expectations. As a general rule, the community service requirement is 15 hours per year for a total of 60 hours needed for graduation. Last year, the School Committee agreed to waive that year's community service requirement. At the high school's request, the School Committee agreed to waive this year's community service requirement as well which impacts the total amount needed for graduation. As of now, members of the Class of 2021, Class of 2022, and Class of 2023 need 30 hours of community service to graduate. The Class of 2024 needs 45 hours. Students may still submit community service hours that they have completed even though it is not required for this school year. If you have any questions, please contact Mrs. Furlong at margaret.furlong@amesburyma.org.

Changes to the Rules around quarantines for staff and students

Last week, the CDC shared updated guidelines for quarantining. The table below provides three different scenarios regarding the amount of time necessary before being removed from quarantining.


After consultation with our nurses from our local Board of Health, we have determined that we will follow the 10 day quarantine guidelines with a return to school and/or work on Day 11. Individuals are still permitted to follow the 14 day quarantine procedure should it be determined that it is the best course of action.


Given the close contact involved in winter sports, winter athletes who are asked to quarantine will be expected to quarantine for the entire 14 days before being permitted to attend or participate in any practices, games, or other team activities.

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Update on Next Steps for AMS

Parents and guardians of AMS students can expect communication from the me tomorrow night regarding an update on the learning model for AMS.