Amesbury Public Schools Update

From the Office of the Superintendent - March 22, 2021

Dear Amesbury Families,

Happy Spring!


Saturday officially marked the first day of spring! As we know, spring signals all types of changes. We are very excited to share with you that there will be some big changes coming to the Amesbury Public Schools beginning on Monday, April 5th and continuing throughout the month.


We are thrilled that our elementary students, grades K-4, will return for five full days of instruction starting on Monday, April 5th. Our PK students will enjoy expanded hours where students attend EITHER 8:30 - 11:00 am or Noon - 2:30 pm. We are very excited for students to return!


AIHS will open for five full days of in-person instruction on Monday, April 12th. Please reach out to Eryn or Bethany for additional information.


On Monday, April 26, 2021, both the middle and high schools will return to full in person. The middle school will continue to run their current schedule rather than follow their "regular" waterfall schedule and the high school will return to a slightly modified version of the "new" schedule that was implemented this year. Like many of you, nothing would make me happier than to have our middle and high school students return even earlier than 4/26. I wanted to take a moment to explain why we need until April 26th in order to be able to have return middle and high school students return for five full days.


At the middle school level, we implemented a very creative hybrid model that kept entire teams together. By this I mean that all student on a particular team had the opportunity to attend school with all members of their classes on their respective teams. Unlike the high school, we did not divide a team into Cohort A and Cohort B but rather chose In order to do this, we needed to utilize 16 large spaces that were transformed into large group instructional areas. This meant that we removed projectors, desks, and other necessary devices for instruction from teachers' classrooms and relocated them to these areas. It will take time to dismantle the larger spaces and reassemble the classrooms. Given that students will be using those spaces for learning until we return full in person, we need April vacation for our custodial staff, cleaning company, and technology staff to be able to get the teachers' classrooms prepared for their return. Of course, we will be working on preparing the classrooms that are not currently in use prior to April vacation.


Similarly, at the high school, we will need April vacation in order to retrieve furniture from storage pods to add back the necessary number of desks for our students returning full in person. While this may seem like a simple thing to accomplish, it is actually quite challenging at this time. As you may know, for the past two weekends, and for all weekends through the month April, Amesbury High School is the site of a regional vaccine clinic. Our custodial staff, from every building in the district, has been involved in the execution of these clinics. In short, AHS is staffed from 6 am through 8 or 9 pm on both Saturday and Sunday. We are so honored to be able to give back to our community by hosting these clinics. In fact, the joy that I have seen on people's faces after receiving a dose of vaccine is worth every logistical challenge that it poses to the timeline of our return. Nonetheless, these clinics impact the date of our return to full in person learning at the high school.


While I too am disappointed that our middle and high school students will not return to full in person until Monday, April 26th, I hope that you can understand the "why". An important added bonus to hosting these clinics is that all of our district staff members including teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, custodians, van drivers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and district staff will have had at least one dose of the vaccine prior to their return on 4/5 and all staff members will have received both doses by the full return on 4/26. This added element of safety is huge for our educational staff and I am so happy to have been part of the process that has provided them with the opportunity to become vaccinated both close to home and in a very timely fashion. I sincerely appreciate the work of all those associated with the Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative. They are an amazing group of people!


I have used the sections below to share some relevant information for our return to full in person. As always, if you have any questions, please email me at elizabeth.mcandrews@amesburyma.org.


Sincerely,


Elizabeth McAndrews

Acting Superintendent

Consistent Expectations for All Buildings During Our Return to Full In Person Learning

  • Minimum 3’ distance between student desks
  • Guaranteed 6’ distance between teacher desk and the closest student desk
  • Cleaning throughout the day, deep cleaning each evening
  • Scheduled/staggered mask breaks - 6’ distance required between students when not masked
  • Lunches in cafeteria and/or gymnasium and/or tent
  • Students will be 6’ away from one another during lunch
  • Breakfast served with previous day’s lunch
  • Face masks will be worn PK-12
  • DESE policy will be followed on buses. An administrator from each building will create a seating chart for each bus to assist with contract tracing.
  • Schools that have requested a tent will be able to use them for lunches, mask breaks and larger classes
  • Classroom seating charts will continue to be utilized
  • Intensive Special Needs services will be delivered based on each student’s individual learning status.
  • We will continue to follow existing quarantining protocols with the understanding that the number of close contacts may increase with the reduced distance between student desks. Although, given the latest data from the CDC, this may not be the case.
  • Should the number of close contacts be significant enough, we may need to make a classroom remote for a period of time. All efforts will be made to avoid this scenario.

Learning Model #2 Survey Results

Thank you to all of the families who completed the survey. While some time has passed since this survey has been administered, it illustrates the trend of more students intending to return to school. Of course, families have the option to remain remote for the balance of this school year. However, DESE has stated in its guidance that schools will NOT be required to provide a remote learning option. If you or your family would prefer to remain remote next year, there are options that exist outside of the Amesbury Public Schools including homeschooling and TECCA. Please contact your child's guidance counselor for additional information regarding outside remote options for the 2020-2021 school year.


Please take a moment to review some of the survey data below.

Students' Current Learning Model at the Time of the Survey

Big picture

Students' Learning Model with a minimum of 3' distance between desks - Full In-Person (As of 3/11/21)

Big picture

Remote Students

At the elementary level, remote students will remain with their current teachers. If numbers shift at the one planned learning model transition time (see below for explanation), it may result in a change to a student's classroom.


Additionally, in their March 9, 2021 On the Desktop message, DESE states that, "If students are currently in a remote model or choose to learn remotely when these new requirements go into effect, the remote learning option may look different than the model offered prior to the implementation of these new requirements." (6). To that end, specials for remote students at the elementary level will be asynchronous. However, teachers will be live on the Google Meet link for the first 30 minutes of the class to assist students as needed.


At the middle school, remote students will access all of their instruction, including EAST classes, through live streaming. Given that all students will be returning to school for five, full length days, AMS remote students will no longer have the opportunity to meet with their teachers on Wednesdays during the day. Of course, they will be able to access teachers during their CE period and after school as scheduled with each individual teacher.


Similarly, high school remote students will also access their instruction through live streaming. Opportunity for additional support for high school remote students can also occur after school as scheduled with a teacher and through the daily FLEX block.


With the majority of students returning to full in-person learning, teachers will be expected to focus on those students in front of them. Thus, those students who are remote may experience some degree of change from their current remote live streaming experiences.

Learning Model Transition

In DESE's March 9, 2021 On the Desktop message, they have stated that after families have made a choice between full in-person and remote, "a parent or guardian who subsequently wishes to have their student switch from a remote to in-person model, should be aware that the school or district may require a reasonable transition period. Consistent with DESE's remote Learning Guidance, we recommend that this transition period be ideally no more than four to six weeks. (6)"


In order to assist families, schools, and the district as a whole, we have built in district deadlines for families to indicate their choice to change their student's learning model.


Families will have until the end of the school day on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 to communicate to their building principal a desire to change the learning model of their child(ren). This deadline will allow us to have those students who are changing a learning model to begin in-person learning on Monday, May 17, 2021.


We hope that by communicating these dates to you this far in advance that you will have sufficient time to evaluate your current decision and allow us to safely prepare for the addition of your child to the in-person learning environment.


Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Attendance

Given the state's guidance on a return to full in-person learning, students will be marked either present or absent based on the learning model that their families have chosen. This is really straight forward at the elementary level as each student is assigned to either a remote or an in-person classroom.


However, at the middle and high school level where teachers are live streaming to the remote students, it may seem like an option for an in-person student to remain at home, live stream into class, and be marked as present. This will no longer be permitted. Students who opt for full in-person learning will be marked absent for any days that they are not in school regardless of whether they log in remotely or not. If there are extenuating circumstances, please begin this conversation by contacting the student’s guidance counselor.


It is important that those students who are in-person report to school as long as they are not sick. If a student is quarantining and/or ill, he/she may access the live streaming option as a resource if they feel well enough. However, they will be marked absent from school as their default status is in-person.


We realize that for some students, particularly at the high school, this may represent a significant change to the current procedure. Please be advised that this policy will go into effect for the middle and high schools on Monday, April 26, 2021.

Graduation Guidance

This week we were happy to receive updated guidance on graduation protocols. Although this year's graduation still will not be "normal" the guidance permits us to hold an outdoor, socially distanced graduation. Graduates will also be permitted to have a limited number of guests attend the ceremony. Please stay tuned for more information from Dr. Ricci in the weeks to come.

Travel Guidelines

The combination of the start of Phase 4 in Massachusetts and a significant number of people well on their way to being fully vaccinated, we anticipate that more families will choose to travel over April Vacation. If travel is part of your itinerary for vacation week, please refer to the updated Travel Advisory for the state of Massachusetts. We all need to continue to do our parts to keep everyone safe.

Each principal will provide additional information with the specific details about his or her building. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter!