Principal Updates

 

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Mt. Ararat Middle School

66 Republic Avenue, Topsham, ME 04086

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

Website:  mams.link75.org

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September 18, 2020


Dear Parents and Guardians,


The First Days of School have gone great!  Our students have been amazing at everything: being good sports with all the changes; asking great questions; working hard as they have started their academic learning; and most importantly doing what they do best -- being goofball adolescents!  They really deserve a pat on the back for their engagement with their new school experience.  


Weekly Learning Plans have been sent out by all teams for both Cohort A and Cohort B (for example, above is the website sent out by 8th Grade Team Merrymeeting).  Team Allagash (Virtual School) has also sent out their weekly plans.  These A/B weekly plans start with the two in-person days, followed by the three remote days.  Our staff has been working SO hard this fall to make these plans simple and clear for students and their parents.  We designed these plans so that a family could pop the weekly plan up on the fridge and check each thing off on the remote learning days.  We have been working on the mantra:  Keep it Simple.  Less is More.  Please provide your child’s team with feedback on how it is going for you at home. We are always seeking to improve our processes and make things easier for families.  As a reminder, each teacher will hold virtual office hours/support sessions on Wednesdays, so please contact your child’s teacher at any point to utilize this support.  We know that many students would benefit from this individual face-time with teachers.  Also, a reminder that all students are expected to report to their Advisor Group every Wednesday morning at 9:00 via Zoom.   Please reach out to your child’s Advisor if you have any questions or concerns with how the learning plans are going so far.


Morning Drop Off & Afterschool Pickup also have gone very well so far!   A big thank you to all the parents who have been great about following our new expectations.  We really appreciate your cooperation with this. These new back-of-the-school spots help us avoid congregations of students, as well keep traffic moving at the front of the school to avoid backups.  Here are a couple of key reminders about drop off and pick up:
**
PLEASE DO NOT DROP YOUR CHILD OFF AND DRIVE AWAY BEFORE 7:30.  We do not have supervision ready until 7:30 and we cannot leave children unattended outside before that.  This is very important.  We have increased our dropoff window to 7:30-7:50 to allow for more staggered, less congested drop off.  The last few days, we have had several students waiting outside at the  back doors before 7:30. Unfortunately, this creates a serious safety situation and disease risk as adolescents often struggle when not supervised by an adult.  If you arrive at school before 7:30, please park the car and wait with your child until 7:30.
**
Students walking to school can use the main front entrance upon arrival.
**
The Afternoon Parent Pick Up time is 2:20.  That time is also when walkers head home.
**
If any parents want to avoid the main school drop off zones, they are more than welcome to use the parking lot at the Army Recruiting building across from MAMS.  If a student is dropped off there, they would cross at the crosswalk at the four-way intersection, then enter at the front of the building as a walker. 

Fall Sports ARE Happening!!!!  We are so, so, so glad that we are able to offer a sports program this fall.  The following Sports Programs will be held at MAMS this fall:


6-8th Girls Field Hockey — Coach Sandy Bickford bickfords@link75.org

7th Grade Girls Soccer — Coach Rebecca Singleton singletonr@link75.org

8th Grade Girls Soccer — Coach Mark Dugal dugalm@link75.org

7th Grade Boys Soccer — Coach Matthew Cook cookm@link75.org

8th Grade Boys Soccer — Coach Jeff Burns burnsj@link75.org

6-8th Co-Ed Cross Country - Coach Jon Beede beedej@link75.org


A few things to know about Fall Sports this year:

* The program will be about working on fundamentals, individual skills, and teamwork

* MAMS will not be competing against other schools at this time

* MAMS will be following all regular school Covid-19 protocols

* Students will only participate on their in-person cohort days

* There will be NO Late Bus, so students must be picked up at 4:00pm

Cohort A - Mon & Tues 2:30-4:00pm

Cohort B - Thurs & Fri 2:30-4:00pm

Team Allagash students will be assigned to either Mon & Tues or Thurs & Fri practices


Fall Sports Sign Ups will be held from September 14-25. First practice will start the week of Sept 28th. All students must turn in a completed Parent Consent Form & Medical Questionnaire to their coach at the first practice. Both can be found on the MAMS Athletic Page.

This year ALL students must sign up online via the Athletics webpage. There will be NO in-school sign ups like in past years. For any questions about athletics, please contact our Athletic Director, Rick Crawford at crawfordr@link75.org, visit our Athletics webpage, or call us at 729-2950.

Clubs are also going to be getting rolling soon.  Our tentative thinking is that we may use Wednesday as the designated club virtual meeting time.  We plan to offer various clubs that students can participate in via Zoom with students from all around the school.  For example, if a student wanted to participate in the Yearbook Club, or Student Council, they would have the option to join those Zoom Club Meetings on Wednesdays.  We are still developing these plans, so encourage your child to check out the MAMS Daily News, as this is where club announcements will be posted.  We hope to get clubs rolling by October.  


No Late Bus. At this time, there is not a late bus and students should not be staying after school.   Students that participate in a Sports Program (above) need to arrange their own transportation home from these sports sessions.  All sessions will end by 4:00.  


How Will Grading Work This Year? This will look much different than years past, as well as last Spring.  Whereas last Spring we did not hold students accountable for work completion while not in school, this year we are.  Students are expected to complete their remote assignments during the remote days, and those assignments will be due on the first day they return to school.  Students will be graded not only on the completion of their work in relation to the learning goal, but also be graded on their work habits:  Focus, Responsibility, and Respect.  If a student doesn’t satisfactorily complete their work this year, or not complete it on time due to lack of effort, their grade will be lowered. In turn, students that have excellent work habits and produce quality work will see their grades be higher.  Here are a couple of updates on grading this year, with more to come in the future:

**As a reminder, our grades will be in Infinite Campus this year.  We will be sending parents their logins for this soon, as well as instructions on how to access the Parent Portal.  We are no longer using the Empower Grading Program in any capacity this year.
**Also, our gradebook appearance and format will change this year from last year.  We will no longer be grading academic learning goals using a 1-4 scale and will instead use a letter grade scale.  In addition, the look and feel of the grading system will mirror what Mt. Ararat High School has been using for years.  

**The First Quarter ends on October 30.  At that time, all parents can view their child’s Q1 Report Card via the Infinite Campus Parent Portal.  We will have much more information on this as we get closer to that date.

What About Open House and Parent-Teacher Conferences? Much like everything else, this will need to look different this year, but we still hope to have the same (or more) opportunities for parents to connect with teachers and learn more about what is happening with their child at school.  Here is our tentative thinking around how we will approach these parent outreach events this Fall.

**Late September-Early October:  Advisor Check-In Meetings. Your child’s Advisor will set up a Zoom or phone conference with both parent and child both in attendance.  The purpose of this check-in meeting is to hear how things are going so far, and to strengthen the connection between home and school.  Around this time, each team will create a communication (such as a YouTube video, or an online presentation) that outlines key details of the curriculum and expectations for the year; this will take the place of Open House night.

**Late Fall-Early Winter:  Individual Parent-Teacher Zoom Meetings.  We are planning to set aside time for any parent to have a brief individual virtual meeting with any of their child’s teachers.  For example, you could meet just with your child’s Science and Art teachers if you only wanted to check in with those teachers, or you could schedule an appointment with each teacher on your child’s team.  

The details of these events are still being finalized, and we will send out more information soon.  Thanks for your patience as we develop these plans.  In the meantime, never hesitate to reach out to your child’s teachers with any questions, or ask for a team-parent meeting, as we can do these any time.


Who Says There is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?! Well this time, we really mean it!  Starting now and going until at least December (we hope longer), ALL MAMS STUDENTS WILL RECEIVE FREE BREAKFAST AND LUNCH AT SCHOOL.  This is unrelated to the Free/Reduced Lunch Program.  Every morning, any student can grab a free breakfast off the cart in their wing.  To get a lunch, all they need to do is complete the online form in their Advisor group at the start of the day to choose which lunch they want.  It is that easy!   Students will also have the option to order a la carte options (chips, snacks, ice cream, etc), but they will need to have money on their lunch account for these items.  For any questions about our lunch program, please contact MAMS Kitchen Manager Linda Dowd (dowdl@link75.org).  For students on Team Allagash, there are alternative ways to get school meals, even while not in school.  Any Team Allagash family should contact the District Food Service Director Katy Dicara (dicarak@link75.org).

Music Teacher Rachel Williams

Staff Spotlight. One of the greatest resources at Mt. Ararat Middle School is our amazing staff. HERE in the Staff Spotlight, you will get to know some interesting information about a member of our faculty! Staff members are chosen at random and will be featured on our website. We hope you enjoy this extra look inside our community and that you learn something new about the people that make MAMS such a special place! This month is Rachel Williams, Middle School General Music and Band Teacher (above)!  


School Picture Day is Coming! Yes, we are still planning on holding school pictures this year.  Our photo provider Geskus, has put in place strict safety guidelines to ensure student and staff safety on Picture Day.  We will send home ordering information with students beforehand.  Our pictures days are:

**Cohort A:  Tuesday, October 13
**Cohort B:  Friday, October 16

**Team Allagash students can come to the school cafeteria via a separate entrance on either of these days at a designated time so they will be the only students in the room at that time.

Free Flu Shot Clinics. Part of me just kind of hoped that the regular-old-common flu virus would just take the year off this winter, but apparently it just isn’t playing ball.  Therefore, we wanted to let you know how families could get a free flu shot this year (see above or here).


Friday, October 9 is a scheduled full staff development day -- NO SCHOOL OR REMOTE LEARNING THAT DAY, as well as the following Monday, October 12 in recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day.  Both weeks will be 4-day weeks, which means we will need to adjust the regular A/B schedule here.  I just wanted to give another advanced heads up on this.


Reminder of Covid-19 Safety Protocols.  Thank you so much to all our families for their help in getting their child adjusted to the new protocols.  Like everything, adolescents usually benefit from hearing it multiple times from multiple places.  Please review our PROTOCOLS with your child regularly at home, as we will continue to teach these here.  


Student At Risk of Self-Harm Outside of School Hours?  If you and/or your child become aware of a student that may be at risk of self-harm when school is not in session, please DO NOT attempt to contact school personnel during this time.  Staff are not working at their desks and may not be checking email or voicemail during these times.  Therefore, vital safety information could easily be missed and students could be placed at greater risk. Instead, please utilize THIS step-by-step guide for how a parent could respond to such a concern outside of school hours.  This guide is placed prominently on our MAMS webpage, and was created in collaboration with local police, mental health providers, and the local Crisis Response Center.

 

If any questions, comments, or suggestions arise, please feel free to call the school at 729-2950 or send me an email at: ottowj@link75.org.



Sincerely,

Josh Ottow

Principal



 

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