June 18, 2020
Dear APS Families,
Let me begin by saying thank you. Thank you for your support as the entire Andover Public Schools faculty, staff and administration pivoted to an entirely new way of serving our students and families. Thank you for your patience when the inevitable challenges occurred along the way and we had to try something different. Thank you for cheering on our teachers on as they blazed new trails through the remote learning process. Believe me, the teachers were cheering you on, too! The past three months have truly been a team effort. You have been amazing.
I recognize how challenging this time has been for you as parents. It is not easy to juggle the multiple roles of caring for your family and perhaps working from home yourself while simultaneously assisting your child with a new way of “going to school.” I recently saw a cartoon online that showed a little girl working on her tablet computer while her mother sat nearby puzzling over a page of “Tips for Parents.” The child asked, “Mommy, why are you mumbling to yourself?” The mother replied, “I’m having a parent-teacher conference.” Sound familiar?
We all realize that remote learning can never replace the deep and connected forms of learning that occur in the classroom. Nevertheless, our teachers have diligently and enthusiastically worked to support every student in the best ways they could. The car parades, celebrations, personal messages, and other means of reaching out have made it abundantly evident how deeply our teachers care about their students and how much they miss interacting with them. While the end of the year celebrations must look much different this year, we want you to know that we share the same joy and pride for our students’ achievements.
We celebrate the creativity the teachers demonstrated as they turned their homes into classrooms and devised entirely new ways to present the curriculum and keep children engaged in learning with almost no warning and little preparation for a world that had turned upside down. It is worth noting that many of the lessons learned this year had nothing to do with core content. Instead, thanks to the tireless support of teachers, social workers, school administrators, and other members of the APS team, students were absorbing valuable lessons about resilience and flexibility, about leaning on family and friends during tough times and about extending a helping hand or kind word to others in need. In the end, those lessons are as important as what they learned academically. As parents, you responded by sending countless letters of support, acknowledging the work that our teachers were doing. Our teachers treasure every single one of those letters. Your words restored their faith in the value of their efforts and motivated them to do even better the next day.
Looking ahead to next year, I wish I could give you definitive information about how our schools will operate. However, at this point, we are awaiting guidance from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. I will communicate with you just as soon as we know what the implementation plan is going to look like. Many options are under discussion, including a blended approach of partial remote learning and partial in-school instruction. Fortunately, we learned a great deal from our experience over the past few months; if remote learning is still part of the mix this fall, I am confident that we will be prepared to make a strong start from day one.
Meanwhile, our Return to School Task Force, which includes parent representatives, will launch its work next week. Throughout the summer, we are planning to hold forums with our families to hear your perspectives and your suggestions. We appreciate the valuable feedback that so many of you provided on the two parent surveys about remote learning. We rely on you to help us think about how we can do our work more effectively. Your collaboration is key to a successful 2020-21 school year, and we will consider all of the ideas you share as we strive to structure the best path for moving our schools and students forward.
As summer arrives, the opportunities for childcare and summer camps are still evolving. In the midst of these uncertain times, we wish you a good summer break and hope that you and your families remain safe and healthy. We look forward with great anticipation to the coming of fall, and we are hopeful that we will be able to come back to a more typical school year.
May you relax, rejuvenate, reflect, and return!