Posted on 05/11/2020

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Mt. Ararat Middle School

66 Republic Avenue, Topsham, ME 04086

Phone:  (207)729-2950     Fax: (207)729-2964


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May 8, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope everyone’s families are doing as well as possible during this challenging time.  Happy Mother’s Day!  To all the moms out there... I think you’ve earned a day off this year!   I have a few important items for you:

End of Year Plan for MAMS.  At last week’s meeting, the MSAD 75 Board of Directors approved a plan to wrap up the school year.  Obviously, with the school closure, things will look very different than years past.  We are very saddened by this.  Trust us when we say that our educators would much rather be with your students right now and have a normal end of the school year.  And, given all the challenges of remote learning, it also makes sense to end the year in a way that will allow us to maximize the support for the students who need it most, as well as to thoughtfully plan for restarting schools next year.  While the superintendent has already communicated this plan to families, we thought it would be helpful to unpack how it will occur at Mt. Ararat Middle School

LAST DAY OF REMOTE LEARNING = Friday, MAY 29.  We will wrap up all new learning for students on this day.  This will be the last week that teams will send out their standard learning plans for all students.  If you, as a family, would like your child to be done for the school year, this would be their last day of school.
TARGETED SUPPORT SESSIONS = Monday, June 1 - Friday, June 12.  In collaboration with principals and teachers, we are planning thoughtfully, and carefully how the last two weeks of targeted instruction will look.  They will be focused on providing intensive, individual/small group support sessions for those students who need it the most, including those students who struggled to meet the essential learning goals during the closure period.  Team teachers will be inviting families to participate in these sessions.  Team teachers (ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies) will be offering sessions on Monday, Tues, Thurs, Friday during these two weeks, while Exploratory teachers (STEM, Art, Health, PE, Music, Language, Learning Commons) will be offering their sessions on Wednesdays.  These support sessions represent an opportunity for students to get caught up, as much as possible, so that they are in the best position to restart school next year.

OPTIONAL INDEPENDENT STUDY = Monday, June 1 - Friday, June 12.  For those families that wish to continue their learning past May 29, Mt. Ararat Middle School will be creating an “Independent Study” website.  The resource bank will be comprised of an eclectic set of learning activities designed for students to complete on their own, either during these two weeks, and/or over the summer.   The school would not collect or assess this independent work.  Rather, it would be designed to be an enrichment to the primary learning goals in our curriculum.  For example, we will be posting access to an online Financial Literacy program, which includes simulations for students to balance a mock checkbook, and create a mock monthly budget.  We know that many families are looking for ways to continue to lead their child’s learning until school reopens in the fall, and we want to be as helpful as we can in this.

TEACHER PLANNING DAYS= Monday, June 15 - Friday, June 19. Our staff plans to use this time to better understand where all our students are with their learning at the end of this year, and to begin to plan for how to start the year next year.  We are doing all this work with the knowledge that many students are in many different places with their learning at the end of this remote learning time.  We have a lot of work to do, but all our staff are highly trained on how to do this “catch up” work.  I have full faith that we will get there.

Plan for Student Access to Belongings and to Drop Off Materials.  Any student concluding their school year on May 29 (the last day of new instruction) or on June 12 (the last day of school) may drop by the school building:

  • To Pack Up Locker Items (Please bring a bag for ease of packing up.)
  • To Drop Off Completed Learning Packets for Scoring (Make sure names are on packets!)
  • To Drop Off School Materials: Laptop, Library Books, Classroom Books, Algebra Texts
  • To Pick Up New Library Book Requests (see below)

Friday, May 29

12pm to 2pm, Last Name A through F

2pm to 4pm, Last Name G through M

4pm to 6pm, Last Name N through Z

Monday, June 1

8am to 10am, Last Name N through Z

10am to 12pm, Last Name A through F

12pm to 2pm, Last Name G through M

Friday, June 12 

12pm to 2pm, Last Name G through M 

2pm to 4pm, Last Name N through Z

4pm to 6pm, Last Name A through F

Monday, June 15

8am to 10am, Last Name A through F

10am to 12pm, Last Name G through M

12pm to 2pm, Last Name N through Z

Students/Parents entering the building will be asked to wear a mask, to maintain social distancing, and to travel only to their locker area and back. We will be limiting the number of students in each locker area at a time. If you do not wish to enter the building or do not have a face covering, staff will be available to collect your belongings. If the times above do not work for you, please reach out to Megan Hayes Teague, Assistant Principal, ( to make alternate arrangements.

Step Up Day & Transitions to the Next Grade Level.  Yes!  We will be changing grade levels next year.  In this time of uncertainty, this is one fact that brings us educators great comfort.  We recently held an online information session for our 5th grade parents, to help them understand the process for their child starting middle school next year (remember that feeling, eh?).  In addition, high school principal Donna Brunette held an 8th grade Parent Information Session in March for 8th grade parents to learn about the high school transition.  

STEP UP DAY = Wednesday, May 27. This was going to be our originally-planned “Step Up Day.”  On this day, all students were to spend the day with their next year’s teachers.  We plan on keeping this as the focus on this day.  On this day, your child will receive online links where they can “meet” their new teachers in a virtual format.  These links will be included on their weekly learning plan.  We encourage all students to visit these links and participate in these introductory activities.  Because this will be the focus of this day, there will be no Exploratory learning plans on this day.   

This is Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week!  I am so proud of every staff member at Mt. Ararat Middle School during this time.  Despite all the challenges we are facing, every single member of our staff has stepped up and adopted a “whatever it takes” approach in reaching and educating our students.  None of them had prepared for this, but in a short amount of time, they created a plan to try to engage every student and keep their learning going.  To honor our teachers, we are asking our parents to take a moment to thank a school staff member.  HERE is an example from our student leaders.  Ideas could include:

  • Sending a “thank you” email to a teacher/staff member
  • Have your child create a short video thanking a teacher/staff member
  • Use a program like Flipgrid or TikTok to create a funny, interactive music video for our students.  
  • Mail a card to a teacher/staff member
    **Any note/card sent to the school (attn: teachers name) by May 18, I will make sure that the teacher receives it in person.  66 Republic Ave, Topsham 04086

Lunch Hero Week!  In addition to all the work of our teachers/educators, I want to give a special shout out to all our amazing Food Service staff members.  While most of our staff have been working remotely, many of our Food Service and Transportation staff have continued to report to the school campus to support our meals program (which serves over 1000 meals every time).  We encourage parents and students to send a thank you email to and the recognition message will be delivered to our Food Service workers.

School-Parent Outreach Programs.  Our school places a high priority on effective home school communication and  collaboration.  Even during this time of school closure, we wanted to attempt to continue these outreach programs via videoconferencing technology.  Parents wishing to attend would just click on the links below to enter the Zoom meeting.  We will also post the links on the school calendar on our website, as well post the links of Facebook in days ahead.

“Parent Academy” Program.  Raising (and educating) adolescents is not an easy job!  Did you know that one of the most rapid periods of brain development for humans (second only to infancy) occurs during the middle school years?  This dynamic, fun, and sometimes challenging period of development means that our kids are constantly changing and parenting can feel like a moving target.  Parents are often having to learn new parenting skills as they go along.   Fortunately, our MAMS staff is highly experienced in working with this age-group and we want to offer support to parents.  To support this goal, we plan on holding several “Parent Academy” sessions throughout the year.  Each session will focus on different topics related to raising adolescents and will be led by highly-qualified staff members and community experts.  Here are the focus topics and times:

Supervising Computers in the Home, September 11, 2019, at 7:45pm
Screens and Teens: November 20, 2019,

Vaping: January 29, 2020, 6:00pm 

Helping Adolescents Cope with the Pandemic, Thursday, May 21, 4:00 VIA ZOOM

**This session will be led by our counseling staff, and local providers. 
The session is meant to be a broad-topic session to support parents on the topics related to supporting the wellbeing of adolescents during this difficult time.

Parent-Principal Coffee Program.  The goal of the parent coffees is for parents to be able to learn more and share their feedback with me and other school staff on educational happenings at the school.  Some sessions might start with a particular focus, but then can be about whatever the parents in attendance want to talk about.  This last session will start with a feedback session about how the Remote Learning has gone, as well as soliciting ideas for the start of next year.  Here are the Parent Coffees for the year:

  • Parent-Principal Coffee, Wednesday, September 11, 7:15-7:45 in Learning Commons
  • Parent-Principal Coffee, Wednesday, December 4, 2019 6:00 pm in Learning Commons
  • Parent-Principal Coffee, Wednesday, February 12, 2020 6:00 pm in Learning Commons
  • Parent-Principal Coffee, Wednesday, May 20, 2020 5:00pmVIA ZOOM
    **This last session will start with a feedback session about how the Remote Learning has gone, as well as soliciting ideas for the start of next year.

Student Digital Citizenship During School Closure.  Our amazing student leaders put together this video on Digital Citizenship during this time of virtual learning.  We would like all students to watch this video.  I sent this to all students via email, but we also wanted parents to have access to this video as well.  We know how hard our parents are working right now to supervise their child on technology and we thank you!


MAMS in the News.  If you haven't seen them already we encourage you to check out this newspaper article and television news piece on some of the remote learning happening at our school for the students on Team Sheepscot, our alternative education team.

Borrowing Library Books for the Summer.  Our amazing Learning Commons Team is once again developing a plan for students to check out books from the MAMS library.  MAMS was one of the few middle schools in the state that was able to offer this service upon closure in March, and now they are offering it again for the summer.  If you would like to pick up library books for the summer, please request books by 12PM on Friday 5/29 and we will have them ready for you to pick up when you come to MAMS to drop off your laptops, packets, and library books. (Watch for an email from the Learning Commons reminding you about which books you need to return at the end of the school year.)

To request books, go to the MAMS Learning Commons catalog (MAMS website → Our School → Learning Commons → Search the Catalog) and log in. Your username is the beginning of your email address, for example, 25silvermank, and your password is the same password you use to access your computer. Click on the “Catalog” tab at the top and then choose “Destiny Discover” on the left side menu. Search or browse for books and click the “Hold” button for any you would like to borrow.

Don’t forget that you can still access MAMS digital books -- eBooks and audiobooks -- through the Learning Commons catalog and the Sora app (click on the Home page once you log in to the Learning Commons catalog).

If you have a card for a public library, be sure to check out their ebook options as well. You can sign up for a free online only library card at the Maine State Library by clicking here.

Please contact Ms. Silverman ( if you have any questions or need help accessing the MAMS digital book collection. 

Additional Books for MAMS students.  Please consider helping us get books to MAMS students! For the past few years, MAMS staff have identified students who needed a book of their own for summer reading and have generously donated books and money to get books to as many students as possible. It is becoming increasingly clear that some of our students need books now, not just for summer reading. If you’d like to help, please consider making a donation to MAMS with the memo “books.” Teachers will continue to identify students who need books and Learning Commons staff will work to get books shipped directly to our students.  Please contact Karen Silverman if you have any questions.  Thank you for your consideration!

MSAD 75 Budget Process. Every year, the MSAD 75 Board of Directors and Superintendent develop a school budget for the following year.   We welcome all parents and community members to view THIS PAGE, which contains a complete description of the budget process, as well as ways that community members can have input and vote on the budget, even during the time of closure.

Is My Child Falling Behind Right Now?  This is a question that I have been asked a few times by parents since this all started.  Whenever I get this question, I always answer it with another question… Falling behind what?  If this were a regular school year, and your child was missing out on or not fully engaged in learning goals, I might answer this question with a “yes.”  I could say that because each school around this country relies on a concept called, “grade-level pace.”  This pace is determined by national learning standards (including Common Core standards) combined with the average growth by all students across the state and country (using state assessment and universal screening tests).  However, this is not a regular school year.  The concept of “grade-level pace” simply does not exist in the same way right now.  There will need to be recalibration of these national and state standards.  There will need to be a re-norming of the expected growth each grade level can be expected to make in a year.  This nationwide school closure could have the impact of changing our own district’s learning goals and curriculum to better align with where we know all our students are at.  There is much work to be done on this by educators at MAMS and around the country.  Therefore, if your child is engaged in any learning right now, they are not falling behind.

If any questions, comments, or suggestions arise, please feel free to call the school at 729-2950 or send me an email at:


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Josh Ottow


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