Posted on 08/28/2020

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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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August 27, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Thank you for your patience as we continue to work on reopening our schools during this unprecedented time.  We appreciate the empathy and grace you have provided us.  We know that there are so many unanswered questions, and we are committed to communicating with you as much as we can, when we can.  To that end, I have some updates for you today.  We will plan to send another update before the first day of school. 

The First Days of School will look very different this year, to say the least.  The most important thing we would want every parent to know is how excited we all are to have our students back!  Approximately 500 of our 600 students will be returning to school in person, while the rest will plan to be part of our Virtual School.  To help plan for a successful reopening, and to rebuild relationships with our students, we have designed the first days of school for students to get back into the routine of school, get used to the many new health and safety protocols, and most importantly check in on students’ social/emotional well being.  Here is the basic schedule:

--Tuesday, September 8: First Day of School for Cohort A (Half Day - 7:40-11:00)

--Weds., September 9: Second Day of School for Cohort A (Half Day - 7:40-11:00)

--Thursday, September 10: First Day of School for Cohort B (Half Day - 7:40-11:00)

--Friday, September 11: Second Day of School for Cohort B (Half Day - 7:40-11:00)

Starting September 14:

Cohort A:  Full Day Monday-Tuesday (7:40-2:20)

Cohort B:  Full Day Thursday-Friday (7:40-2:20)


Students in the Virtual School Will Start on September 8

Cohort A/B Planning Calendar. Most weeks, Cohort A goes on Monday/Tuesday and Cohort B attends on Thursday/Friday.  However, there are some weeks with holidays or staff days.  In these weeks, we have adjusted the normal A/B plan so that one cohort doesn’t have less days overall.  HERE is a planning calendar for these A/B days through December.  If we are able to return to 100% in-person attendance, then we would no longer need a Cohort A/B schedule, but we wanted parents to at least know what our plan is for these unique weeks when they come up.

Supply List. In years past, each team would put out their own supply list.  However, with all the details and logistics, we wanted to simplify things this year for the benefit of our families.  This supply list was created as a suggestion for families who have the means to send their child to school with supplies.  We recognize in this time of uncertainty, not every family is able to make this happen.  If a family is able, it would be helpful to our staff for students to arrive with these supplies by the second week of school.  MAMS will provide school supplies to any student who needs them.  

6th Grade Team Placement and Team Structure. We plan to send out an email/letter to every 6th grade parent early next week identifying which 6th grade team they are placed on.  This letter will be sent by your child’s new teacher(s).  With our new protocols this year, we needed to change our two-teacher 6th grade teams into four-teacher teams.  While this will make our 6th grade teams larger, the students themselves will still spend most of their time in smaller groups.  This new structure will allow for more effective content-area instruction to occur, with each of the teachers being responsible for teaching only one subject.  This mirrors our structure in 7th and 8th grade.  Our counselors and teachers, in collaboration with 5th Grade teachers and parent feedback, placed our two teams in 6th grade , called  “North Bay” and “South Bay.”  As a reminder, all of our teams are named after local Maine rivers and bodies of water for a reason.  The team they are placed on in 6th Grade determines the team they will “flow” into for their 7th and 8th Grade years (see “Teamography Map” below).  The change to 6th grade teams for this year DOES NOT IMPACT the looping/non-looping flow.  North Bay team will flow into the looping Merrymeeting Team, and the South Bay team will flow into the non-looping Androscoggin Team in 7th grade.  

Our Virtual School Students are placed on the new “Team Allagash.”  This newly created cross-grade 6-8 Team has its own faculty and student body, separate from the in-person team structure.  The faculty of this teams is:

English Language Arts Teacher: Michele Aronson

Social Studies Teacher: Tricia Cherry

Science Teacher: Nicole Karod

Math Teacher: Peter Colesworthy

Exploratory - Wellness Teacher: Doreen Swanholm

Exploratory - Art/STEM Teacher: Elizabeth Michel

Special Educators: TBD

Because this Virtual School is a new option for our students, we know that parents of students in this program have many questions.  The teachers on Team Allagash will be communicating with parents very soon on an overview of what the Virtual School will look like this year.   Stay tuned!

Sports (and Clubs) This Fall? Sports is the million dollar question right now.  Like every school district, ours is awaiting guidance from state agencies on whether high school sports will be allowed this fall.  If Mt. Ararat High School is able to offer sports this fall, then we hope to offer a participatory/skill-based sports program this year at  MAMS.  We also plan to offer clubs this year as much as we are able, some may occur during the school day, while others may happen via Zoom.  At this point, we are uncertain if we will have a late bus this year, so this may limit after school activities.  We know important sports and clubs are to the middle school experience, so we are committed to making them happen as much as we can.

Parent Entering MAMS Building This Year. Our reopening health/safety protocols for students and staff are focused on reducing disease transmission from person-to-person.  To that end, we need to adjust how parents access the building this year.  Parents will still buzz in during school hours, and will be asked to enter the building after completing a self-screening protocol and wearing a face covering.  Instead of entering the main office, we have installed a new pass-through window for parents in the main lobby.  Instead of entering the office (it will be locked), parents will go to the new window to conduct day-to-day business, such as dropping off notes, dismissing students, and adding money to the lunch balance.  We plan to conduct most parent-teacher meetings by Zoom, including Open House and Parent Conferences.  More to come on this.

Parent Drop Off and Pick Up. We anticipate an increase in the number of parents dropping off/picking up their children this year.   We also need to ensure students are socially distanced upon entering the building, so we need to have multiple entrances/exits to spread students out.  To address this, we have created two new parent drop off/pick up areas.  THIS YEAR WE ARE ASKING PARENTS TO NOT DROP OFF/PICK UP AT THE FRONT OF THE BUILDING.  Instead, parents will park to drop off students at the North/South back entrances to the building (see map above). There are many spots set aside for parent parking behind the building. Students will enter the building on their team’s respective side. No students will be allowed entry into the school until 7:30am for supervision purposes. All students must wear masks and maintain social-distancing as they enter the building.  All students will start every day in Advisor Group, and we have made this time from 7:40-8:00.  We extended this time so that students do not feel pressure if they arrive after 7:40.  We are anticipating that the total arrival time for students will occur between 7:30-7:50.

North Teams: North Bay (6th), Merrymeeting (8th), & Casco (8th) 

South Teams: South Bay (6th), Kennebec (7th), & Androscoggin (7th)  

Parent pick-ups will begin following bus departure, starting at 2:20pm. Parents are asked to park behind the building near the North/South back entrances to the building. Due to the limiting of visitors inside our building, we will not be able to have parents wait for students in the main lobby or front entrance this year. Students will be dismissed from their team areas by advisor group to either their parents or to walk home.  Walkers and parent pick up students will come out those back North/South exits after 2:20.

Laptop Deployment.  

Phase One (Virtual School - Team Allagash Students):

During the week of August 24, the MAMS Laptop Take Home Form will be sent out to students and families opting for the Option 2: MAMS Virtual School. This form will review the rules and procedures associated with using a school device at home, will encourage families to opt into laptop coverage, and will capture parental permission for at-home laptop use. This form must be completed prior to laptop deployment. Students will not be issued a laptop until this process is complete.

Pickup Times for Laptops for Students In MAMS Virtual School

Wednesday, September 2, 12:00pm to 4:00pm

Thursday, September 3,  8:00am to 12:00pm

Tuesday, September 8, 12:00pm to 4:00pm

Phase Two (In-Person Students):

During the week of September 8, the MAMS Laptop Take Home Form will be sent to students and families in Option 1: MAMS In-Person School. This form will review the rules and procedures associated with using a school device at home, will encourage families to opt into laptop coverage, and will capture parental permission for at-home laptop use. This form must be completed prior to laptop deployment. Students will not be able to take their laptop home until this process is complete.

Deployment for MAMS Group A: Monday, September 14 & Tuesday, September 15

Deployment for MAMS Group B: Thursday, September 16 & Friday, September 17

New Phone System. Our school is in the middle of a total upgrade to our phone system.  This new system will expand capabilities for teachers/counselors to make phone calls to parents, even if the staff member is not physically in the building.  Not having this functionality was a significant barrier during closure last Spring, so we wanted to address this.  During this transition, please bear with us, we are still setting up voicemail greetings and teacher extensions.  Our main phone number 729-2950 is operational and any parent can reach office staff through that.

Our Teachers and Staff Members returned to work this week.  This is a picture taken last June at the 8th Grade Parade/Celebration, combined with screenshots of our final zoom faculty meeting (my own daughter, as well as Mr. Burns’s daughter may have snuck into the picture too).  All our staff have been working tirelessly this week to get things ready by September 8.  None of us want to be in this situation of reopening school during this time.  We all wish it was just a regular school start, and that all our students were going to be walking through our doors.  This week has felt like we are starting a brand new school, having to create new protocols for almost everything.  I know this is how many our students and parents feel too.  We all, are truly in this together.  A special thanks to all the food service and custodial staff who worked all summer to help keep the meals program going, as well preparing the school facilities for the start of the school year.   We are excited to welcome our newest faculty members to our fabulous MAMS Staff Community!

Jessica Bennett, Special Education Teacher

Jennifer Bonnet, Special Education Teacher

Colin Copeland, School Social Worker

Theresa Davis, Special Education Teacher

Andreaska Jeffcoats, Special Education Teacher

Elyzabeth Quintero, American Sign Language Interpreter

Cell Phones in School.  At Mt. Ararat Middle School, our Cell Phone Protocol (based on school board policy) is:


This means that students are expected to stow their cell phones in their backpacks from first bell to last bell. If a parent needs to get a message to their child, for any reason, contact the Main Office at 729-2950 and we have an efficient and discreet way to relay that message.  We ask parents to not text or call their child during the school day.  As you know, adolescents struggle with ambiguity and this may send mixed messages to them about expectations.  We are also asking for your support in reinforcing this expectation with your child at home before the start of school.

Student Accident Insurance Available.  Parents can purchase up to $25,000 in voluntary student accident medical insurance protection through Maine School Management Association.  Coverage options include full time (24 hours), school time, football (grades 9 – 12), and dental.  HERE is the brochure/registration form.  MSAD No. 75 is not endorsing this plan.  Other insurance companies provide similar coverage options for students.

Policy Notification of Policies and Student Handbook.  Every year, we are required to direct parents towards all our district policies. The policies, created and approved by the publicly elected MSAD 75 Board of Directors, govern the general operation of the school system.  You are welcome to review any of these policies.  In addition, we have a published Student Handbook on our website (located under the Student tab) that we review with students during the first weeks of school and we encourage parents to review it as well.  Some parts of the handbook are still being updated by staff, as not all parts apply to during these unique times.

Book Fair!  The MAMS virtual Book Fair is still running until September 4 and the Learning Commons receives 25% of the proceeds to buy more books for MAMS students! Scholastic is offering FREE shipping for book orders over $25.

If any questions, comments, or suggestions arise, please feel free to send me an email at:  Never hesitate to reach out -- I can make phone calls happen any time day or night. 


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Josh Ottow


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