After a most unusual and disrupted Spring 2020, the students and staff of AE/MS returned to our school building to resume in-person studies on Tuesday, September 9. Over the first two weeks of our school’s reopening, we are pleased to report that all is smooth, focused, and safe at AE/MS.
Over the weeks of late summer, the AE/MS staff worked intensively to redesign almost everything about schooling to assure that we were able to institute necessary safety protocols in response to guidance received from state, national, and local experts and authorities. For the time being, during the COVID-19 pandemic, schooling at AE/MS will be very different than it has ever been.
Students and staff are asked to wear masks at all times while in our school building, and outdoors when they cannot adequately distance (e.g., while playing on our playground structures). Students enjoy regular “mask breaks” and classes outdoors, and fresh air indoors as we keep classroom windows open as much as practical. All students and staff maintain a 6-foot distance from others whenever possible, which is pretty much all the time at this point. They wash/sanitize their hands regularly, using an approved sanitizer whenever they move from one place to another in our school.
Further, our students have been organized into “cohorts” (semi-isolated groups), and we minimize movement within the school building to avoid possible cross-contamination. Students enjoy lunch in their classrooms (no congregating in large numbers, as would occur in the cafeteria), and Specials classes are taught in homeroom classrooms. Both of these measures are designed to limit contact with people in other parts of the school building.
Students have appropriately-distanced assigned seats on our buses and in our classrooms to support contact tracing efforts, should that be necessary. To the delight of many students, we are holding fall sports programs for soccer and cross country this year, necessarily abbreviated, and again using necessary safety protocols as much as possible.
Another critical component of our school safety program this fall is the implementation of a staff and student health screening process that involves a short survey and a body temperature reading for anyone joining us on campus for the day. Lastly, though not least importantly, all areas of our school building are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized every day, and “deep cleaning” schedules are followed by our school custodial staff on Mondays, when students are learning at home.
One key measure that has promoted our safe and successful in-person school reopening has been the adoption of a Hybrid Schooling Model. Students and their families can elect to participate in a Fully Remote Learning Program (all classes online, no in-person schooling), or our Hybrid Schooling Model (all students learn remotely on Mondays, and then attend classes in-person at AE/MS on either Tuesday and Thursday or on Wednesday and Friday). On the “off days” for our Hybrid Schooling students, they learn and attend meetings remotely.
The Hybrid Schooling Model has allowed us to decrease population density on our campus, thereby affording us greater opportunity to physically distance students. It has also allowed us to decrease density on our school buses, with the same benefit. To support the necessary time teachers need to spend in meetings with their Remote Learning students, AE/MS dismisses one hour earlier than normal this fall.
As part of their ongoing oversight of school district operations, the Andover School Board is set to discuss AE/MS reopening at their October meeting and establish a possible timeline for a return to full in-person schooling. There are many variables that our School Board and district administrators will need to consider, maintaining their primary focus on what is best for the education, health, and well-being of our students and staff at this most unusual time.
So far, so good at AE/MS, and we are 100% committed to keeping it that way. Please reach out to us at AE/MS if or whenever you would like to learn more about how we are educating the wonderful children of our very special town.