No Mandates For In-Person Classes, But Many Guidelines

More direction coming soon about back-to-school

By Dennis Dobe

Although our state government has not issued mandates, they have offered a wealth of guidance that will enable schools to make prudent choices about how they structure for school reopening. 

We have been examining options for reopening for a long time now and will have more direction soon. Then, all the pieces necessary to get kids back to school should fall into place pretty quickly.


In the meantime, here’s the latest information that I shared with the school community on July 23:


“As you would anticipate, SAU-46 and AEMS Administration and Staff have been closely studying and discussing the dynamic conditions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, and their implications for schooling this fall.  A collaborative process has been underway since the spring, during which input from district constituent groups has been taken into account (school board, administration, staff, families, and students), as were the recommendations and guidelines offered by state and national government health agencies.  


“I am pleased to inform you that with unanimous Andover School Board support, we are PLANNING to reopen schools in the fall with a safe and appropriate balance of in-person and remote learning.  


“Our goal continues to be schooling in Andover with all students and staff on campus every day, in order to maximize learning opportunities for our students.  However, at this time, that option is not practical, feasible, healthy, or safe for students, staff, families, or our greater community of Andover.  


“Additional details about our school reopening planning process (which will involve local school administrators, teachers, parents, health and safety officials, community members, and students) will be shared as the weeks unfold leading to our school reopening on Wednesday, September 9. (This start is a bit later than originally announced and gives school staff additional time together to plan, prepare, and train for our new conditions this fall). … 


“Thank you for your patience as we work through this critically important planning process.  It is important for you to understand that our personal decisions today will have a significant impact on what schooling will actually look like in the fall.  


“If Andover residents remain committed to the practices that support a healthy community during a time of pandemic (wearing a mask whenever in public, frequent handwashing, social distancing, isolating when sick, etc.), our opportunity to bring students back into the school building will be greatly improved.  


“If we fail to take care of ourselves and look out for each other, it is very possible that there will be a significant increase in the number of COVID cases in our town.  That circumstance would substantially undermine our plan to reopen school with students on campus.  Please remember that our situation with the pandemic is extremely fluid, and we will need to remain flexible in the time ahead.  We will need to work together to create conditions that are safe for students and staff to return to AE/MS.  (“Safety, first, last, and always.”)  


“I look forward to involving you in our school reopening study and planning process by sharing information with you regularly, and engaging you in our ongoing conversation about what schooling could and should be for our students this coming fall.”

In summary, our school staff and families are deeply committed to maximizing educational opportunities for all students, and we will do all that we can to meet our mission in this regard. At this time, more so than ever, we will need to do so with a laser focus on student, staff, and community safety.

The pandemic has been extremely disruptive, and everyone has made important sacrifices to keep themselves and others safe. We’ll need to continue doing so into the foreseeable future. That means that school will look very different for a while, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t take good care of kids, and afford them many opportunities to develop the content knowledge, academic skills, and social skills to be successful later in schooling and in life.