Here is a not-so-brief article to bring you up too speed regarding our school’s reopening plan. Truth be told: we’ve been very much open since our official first day of school this year, which occurred on September 9. However, we are still not having our students visiting us in-person every school day at AE/MS.
We have adopted a “phase-in” model for in-person schooling this year to allow us to effectively manage our conditions and better avoid possible transmission of COVID-19 in our school. So far, so good — but far from perfect!
Although we are pleased with the systems we have put into place to safeguard the health and well-being of students and staff while in school during this time of pandemic, we are not in a position to safely have all students in our building at one time. Although there continues to be an incredibly low infection rate here in Andover, there has been a recent, dramatic rise in the incidence of the coronavirus in our state, neighboring communities, and their schools.
On the evening of October 6, the Andover School Board (ASB) was set to reconsider our school reopening “Hybrid Schooling Model,” in which students learn in-person at AE/MS two days a week (in smaller groups to provide more physical distancing) and at home online three days a week. The presentations and deliberation during this meeting resulted in requests for more research and more information in order for the Board to make a responsible decision on the path forward for our school.
Two weeks later, on October 20, the ASB reconvened and spent almost three hours in deliberation, which followed countless time each Board member had committed to learn as much as possible about AE/MS facility and program circumstances, as well as local pandemic conditions and the approaches of schools around us related to maintaining a safe environment and containing the spread of COVID-19. Our School Board members also carefully considered all of the input that they had received from parents, school administrators, and other community members.
Not being able to achieve a consensus regarding a return to “All In-Person Schooling” at this time, the ASB ultimately elected to maintain our school’s Hybrid Schooling Model, which includes continuing to offer a Fully Remote Learning option for families inclined to have their children educated in the safety of their homes. As you would anticipate, the decision not to return to full in-person schooling at AE/MS was a very difficult one to make.
At the Board’s meeting on Tuesday, December 12, they will discuss and determine a plan for “Phase III” of our school’s reopening plan, which will include either continuing with our Hybrid Schooling Model or moving to an “All In-Person Schooling Model” (which would extend the number of days students will attend classes in-person at AE/MS), while also continuing to maintain a Fully Remote Learning option.
This ‘Phase III’ school reopening plan is expected to begin in January, after the Holiday Break. From now until then, our school staff will continue to improve the effectiveness of our current school systems and programs, especially focusing on ways to improve student attendance, engagement, and productivity during Remote Learning days. Also anticipated in the coming weeks will be ongoing facility work to improve air quality conditions in all areas of our school, a critically important factor in maintaining a safe and healthy learning environment at AE/MS.
As I believe most people can appreciate, school reopening during a time of pandemic is a very complicated matter, with innumerable factors to consider, high stakes, and great responsibility. We understand that there has been (and will continue to be) considerable hardship and loss for students, families, and the entire Andover community during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are extremely hopeful that we will find ourselves on the other side of this national tragedy sooner, rather than later.
At AE/MS, we remain committed to doing our part to keep children safe at school, thereby keeping COVID-19 transmission and infection rates as low as possible in our community.
On behalf of the AE/MS faculty and staff, thank you for your ongoing understanding and support during this extraordinarily difficult time. As the last line of our AE/MS Eagle Code states: “Safety, first, last, and always.” And so it is, at your Andover Elementary/Middle School.