Posted on 07/01/2020

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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 29, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,


I hope everyone has enjoyed these warm days lately.  I have a few important items for you as we prepare to start wrapping up the school year.  First, in case anyone received an odd email from me today from a gmail account, “Principal Mail.”  This is not me, but rather a spam/phishing attempt, so please do not open it.  All my emails will come from the domain.

End of Year Plan for MAMS.  In my previous update, I spelled out our plans to end the school year.   Given the dates have arrived and will continue to unfold in the next few weeks, I wanted to reshare these details as a reminder. 

  • LAST DAY OF REMOTE LEARNING = TODAY, Friday, MAY 29.  Since March 13, our teachers and staff have been working hard every day to create positive learning environments in which all students can engage more deeply with their learning, adopt a growth mindset, build healthy relationships, and thrive. And, we will wrap up all new learning for students today.  This week was the last week that teams sent out their standard learning plans for all students.  If you, as a family, would like your child to be done for the school year, today is their last day of school.

  • TARGETED SUPPORT SESSIONS = Monday, June 1 - Friday, June 12.  Teams have been working hard over the past couple of weeks to reach out to every student and parent to let them know where they stand with their virtual learning progress.  Many families were invited to participate in focused support sessions.  It is 100% the choice of parents if they would like their child to participate in these virtual support sessions.  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 (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.  If you have any questions, please reach out to your child’s teacher(s).

  • OPTIONAL INDEPENDENT STUDY = Monday, June 1 - Friday, June 12.  For those families that wish to continue their learning past today, Mt. Ararat Middle School has created THIS “Independent Study” website.   This is linked directly off the main school website.  The resource bank consists 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 and independent of the primary learning goals in our curriculum.  Topics include cooking, financial literacy, geology, astronomy, stock market, STEM, Engineering, just to name a few. 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 and charger, 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.

What is the Plan for Reopening for Next School Year?  At the May 28 MSAD 75 School Board meeting, Superintendent Shawn Chabot presented THIS planning process for reopening schools for next year.  All families should be receiving communication from him that outlines this process, as well as provides a link to THIS website where families can provide input and suggestions for reopening procedures, as well as receive ongoing updates on the planning progress.

MAMS in the News.  Check out the Topsham Cryer next week.  There is a media story, “A Day in the Life of the Learner: Being a Middle Schooler During the Pandemic.”  This article was co written by Middle School 6th Graders Tristan Huot, Katherine Kelly, and Jayden Ross; 7th Graders Eleanor Young, Emerson Smith, Aidan Gomez, and Brooklyne Choate; 8th Graders Lila Pottle, Jacob Burak, Lily Stewart and Nicholas Spencer.  I am so proud of these amazing student authors, not only in contributing to the article, but also for the strength, resilience, and creativity they have shown with their learning during this time.

English Language Arts Learning.  Over the last few weeks in the 7th and 8th grade poetry units students have been watching a variety of videos with slam and/or spoken word techniques.  Students submitted creative, heartfelt, and engaging final products that really spoke to their experiences during this pandemic.  Students used their daily journal entries to lift lines, while also critiquing mentor poems as well as our community shared poems. Their final product was to produce spoken word videos, sketch notes with words and illustrations, or a combination of both. While students produced many outstanding final products, HERE is one from two of our 7th graders.  It speaks to all the amazing and deep learning going on, despite all the challenges.  

Tentative Plan for Summer School.  Every late August, we typically hold a summer school for those students that would benefit from a boost in extra instruction right before the start of the year.  We are still planning on some version of this, but we may need to wait until we know more about the school's reopening plan before we can commit to this.  We may be able to do some reading-based instruction remotely, with some in-person learning in August, but we know that math is really only going to be worthwhile for students if students can come in person.  Therefore, we are still planning the details for this, but we may start to reach out to parents to invite their child to participate in this.  This summer school is different from “extended school year services” that a few students have part of their IEP Special Education plan.  Our Support Services Coordinator Cathy Curtis is planning that separate program and has already started communicating to those parents.

Our Approach to Math Instruction.  At MAMS, we strive to group our students for math instruction based on the Learning Goals they are prepared to learn. We know that all students can learn math at high levels, yet not every child is ready to learn the same skills and concepts at the same time. We seek to provide the right amount of challenge for each student which means finding the balance between rigor and frustration. We have found that using the Open Up Resources program allows us to meet our students’ needs through grouping and differentiating within each classroom. 

 We place incoming 6th graders in math groups based on their Learning Goal needs. All 6th grade students work on 6th Grade Learning Goals. Students who need more time, will work on 6th grade Learning Goals, but at a slower pace in order to fill some of the gaps they have in their mathematical understanding. Some students will move off team for math instruction and be regrouped based on their needs in order to receive the appropriate mathematical instruction.

In 7th and 8th grade, the majority of students stay on their team for math instruction. Each math teacher has four sections of math classes allowing them the opportunity to group students according to Learning Goal and pacing needs.  Students with a Gifted and Talented (GT) identification leave their team for math instruction and work with the GT teacher. We may place other students who are not identified as GT, but exhibit similar learning needs, in this group as well. Also in 8th grade, we offer an accelerated course that mirrors the High School Algebra I curriculum for students who are ready.

We use multiple indicators to determine the best placement for each of our students. Some of our data points come from test scores like STAR and MEA, Learning Goals completed in Empower, and the teacher’s recommendation. As the year progresses, we continually monitor each students’ progress and adapt instruction as well as class placement when appropriate.

We appreciate hearing from parents about our process and/or with questions you may have about the math program or your child’s placement.  Please contact your child’s current math teacher.

MAMS Summer Reading Virtual Book Fair.  The MAMS Virtual Book Fair is open through September. Scholastic is offering free shipping on books-only orders of $25 or more! Please click here to learn more and shop. Happy reading!

Borrowing Library Books for the Summer.  If you would like to pick up library books for the summer, please request books TODAY 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 Karen Silverman ( if you have any questions or need help accessing the MAMS digital book collection.

And… More Books for HARPSWELL Students.  Harpswell Fire Chief Art Howe has let us know an opportunity for our students who live in Harpswell to have additional access to books this summer.   THIS flyer explains this opportunity.  And, we just received word that Elijah Kellogg Church in Harpswell is also wanting to support getting as many books in hands of Harpswell students as possible.  We are still working on the details of this, but please reach out to our librarian Karen Silverman ( if you live in Harpswell and your child would benefit from getting more books, including books that would be purchased for them and they could keep.

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.

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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