Opening Weeks at AE/MS will Offer Remote or Hybrid Classes

Hope to begin full in-person on October 13

By Dennis Dobe

Greetings from the Andover Elementary/Middle School!  As the time before school reopening winds down, the pace of our preparation activity is winding up.  Here are a few highlights and updates for you as this unusual summer draws to a close.

School Reopening Planning Process:  After a comprehensive planning process that began as early as last spring, we plan to reopen AE/MS on Wednesday, September 9, after the Labor Day holiday and a day after Primary Election voting at AE/MS.  


What started as an intensive series of meetings for School District administrators in the late spring and early summer transitioned to a comprehensive process of study and planning for school staff from mid-summer right through our opening days in early September.  Your AE/MS teachers and staff have been fully invested and very actively contributing to our school reopening planning process throughout the summer.  Countless hours and days have been spent researching and attending meetings, during which the details of our school’s reopening plan were determined.  


Our staff organized into 13 different study committees, each facilitated by a faculty leader, which ultimately generated a report outlining a series of findings and corresponding recommendations for practices that would ensure a safe and successful school opening in September.  These recommendations will be woven into our school’s formal reopening plan which will guide our practices as students return to school in September.  


I could not possibly have asked for more from our AE/MS faculty and staff, and I can’t say enough about how their dedication this summer to your children and our school opening is directly related to our ability to bring kids back to school safely and successfully.  Knowing that actions speak louder than words, I can assure you that your AE/MS staff members have demonstrated their intense desire to have students return to school this fall.  It is what we do.  It is what we want.  Don’t ever think differently, not for a moment.

Remote Learning and Hybrid Schooling:  As we reopen AE/MS this fall, we will offer families two options:  students may participate in a fully remote learning option (online, virtual school like this past spring — but better!) or a hybrid schooling option in which all students participate in remote learning on Mondays, and then attend classes in-person at AE/MS on either Tuesday and Thursday or Wednesday and Friday.  


For the opening weeks of school, our “hybrid” approach to schooling will allow us an opportunity to help students learn and internalize new school safety protocols that will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus at AE/MS.  This initial part of the school year can be considered a necessary “Phase One” of our re-entry to schooling in a time of pandemic.  


When we return to full in-person schooling in mid-October (anticipated), we will all be very well versed and will have been successful in implementing necessary safety precautions that we will need to have in place for the balance of the school year (or at least until the pandemic is over).  Consider our hybrid school model a sound investment in your child’s schooling, and a necessary precaution to ensure your child’s safety at AE/MS (as well as that of your child’s friends, neighbors, and teachers).

Community Outreach:  Throughout the summer, we have invested considerable effort making certain that there was a steady flow of information from the school to our parents, staff, and the greater community of Andover regarding our activities and priorities as we worked to ensure a safe and timely reopening of school this fall.  


We understand that to partner with the people we serve, we must keep them informed and involve them in our processes for school reopening whenever possible.  Therefore, we have written newspaper articles, sent email updates to parents on a frequent basis, formed and/or participated in school and community work groups and committees, developed and disseminated student and family orientation materials for our return to school, contributed to a parent information forum series hosted by our AE/MS-PTO, and will offer Open House events the week before school opens to help our students and families understand what school opening will look like and how they can help make our school reopening a great success.  


As the expression goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Never has this been more true than today.  In order for school to safely reopen and remain open, we all have to do our part, as one community committed to the health and safety of all of its members.

School Safety:  As stated in our AE/MS Eagle Code, S stands for  Safety: First, Last, and Always.  So it will be this fall as we reopen our school.  


This most important school community responsibility will be front and center for us, with nothing remotely as important as our need to do all we can to protect one another from contracting the coronavirus while at school — and we suggest that appropriate safety practices be observed whenever the members of our school community go out in public, as well.  Commitment to following the recommendations of doctors and scientists for keeping free from infection will have everything to do with our ability to open AE/MS as planned this fall, and stay opened as we all desire.  


An indifference to following clear and irrefutable safety guidelines in our community could lead to an outbreak of COVID-19 and a swift return to the conditions we faced this past spring with full remote learning — and this would not be good for our students or their families.  Wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance, please. 

Facility:  Our building has been deep cleaned from top to bottom this summer, with a good number of safety enhancements put into place, including hand sanitizer stations installed in every classroom and common space, sanitizing wipes available in every classroom and common space, the acquisition and use by custodians of electrostatic disinfectant foggers every day, and large quantities of PPE acquired for student and staff use while at AE/MS.  Also, we have designated many areas suitable for outdoor classrooms that teachers and students will use periodically to maximize opportunities for fresh air and mask-free schooling.

Student Transportation:  We’ll be offering bus transportation for our students this fall, however, a large number of families have elected to transport their children to AE/MS as we reopen school in a couple of weeks.  This reduced ridership will make it easier and more certain that we will be able to appropriately distance students while riding the bus, and assure that they are following other necessary safety practices.

Student Activities:  The start of most student activities will be postponed to at least mid-October, to allow sufficient time to monitor local conditions related to the pandemic and to coincide with our school’s plan to return to full in-person schooling on October 13.  


Fall sports are anticipated to begin in mid-September though, with continued individual conditioning plans implemented until September 15, when team practices can be conducted with appropriate safety protocols implemented.  We anticipate that interscholastic competition will begin for our student athletes, with students from a handful of carefully selected local schools in early October.  


We are still working on a plan to bring our school’s production of The Wizard of Oz to the stage later this fall, as preparations for this show were brought to a screeching halt just before opening night this past March.

That’s the news from your local public school.  The excitement of our staff for school reopening is matched only by the excitement of our students and families.  It’s been an enormous amount of work, but we are now ready for our students to return to AE/MS.  


Best wishes to our families and the greater community of Andover for a safe and happy return to school season!