Dear students and families,
With the arrival of the new year, the initial stages of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and the promise of brighter days ahead, we are feeling optimistic at AMSA Charter School. 2020 was a difficult year but through teamwork, commitment, and understanding, we managed to create a successful remote learning model for our students. We faced the difficulties of 2020 together. Now, in 2021, we ask for your continued patience and support. We understand that our parents are making tremendous sacrifices to support your children’s remote learning, and everyone is anxious to go back to our pre-COVID lives, but we do not believe this is the right time for our school to return to in-person learning for the reasons stated below. Therefore, AMSA will continue with remote learning for the third term of the school year which ends April 6, 2021, with the addition of an in-person support program for our most high needs students. (More information below.)
Our decision to continue with remote learning is primarily based on the following three factors.
- Massachusetts’ COVID-19 cases and daily test positivity rates have been increasing at an alarming rate. All of AMSA’s core towns have been in the “red” zone for the last couple of months with COVID positivity rates well above the 7-day state average of 6%. As of January 20th, our core towns' 14-day COVID positivity rates are: Marlborough - 10.32%, Maynard - 8.05%, Hudson - 10.13%, and Clinton - 14.97%, and all four towns are trending higher over the same period of time. Although it seems that schools are not considered to be “super-spreaders,” cases are still being brought into schools, which has been a constant disruption to the education process across the state. AMSA students, although remote, are learning directly from their teachers every day. They are learning, even under these most challenging circumstances.
- We must also consider all three of the school buildings’ aging HVAC systems. In late November, we received the results of the Airflow evaluation and immediately scheduled the air balancer, engineer, and HVAC controls tech to adjust the airflow to all of the rooms that failed to meet airflow requirements in late December. It was then discovered that the air control systems in all three buildings were not working properly and could not be repaired due to the age of the systems. The school will be purchasing a new control system which will control the airflow in all three buildings. The state’s required bidding process has started and we are awaiting bids on the project but as a result this deficiency, our HVAC systems have not been certified as we had originally hoped. In the meantime, we purchased air purification units for each classroom and office space, which makes the classrooms safe, but these units are not able to bring the school’s two cafeterias to an acceptable safety level. We are working to find another solution for the larger spaces.
- I communicate regularly with other Charter School Executive Directors and it is clear to me that the choice to start and stay fully remote has provided a consistent learning environment. Other schools have attempted to modify their programs as the pandemic has surged and waned, and the additional time spent making and adapting to changing methodology has taken away from the learning environment. While not the desired way to teach, AMSA faculty and students have become better and better at remote learning. We believe that our consistent approach is resulting in the best learning opportunities for our students.
We are committed to our remote learning program in term 3, and we are also excited about several new programs which we believe will make it even better.
We have been able to add three new programs to support our highest need students.
- In-person support program for our most high needs students (beginning February 9th)
- AMSA-based curriculum summer school program for credit recovery
- AMSA summer enrichment program for students experiencing academic regression
*Qualifying students will be invited to attend these programs through a letter from the Principal with more information.*
It is our hope that these programs will help address the most significant academic, social, and emotional issues some of our students are experiencing under the current learning model. These programs offer additional support now to a small number of the high need students and will provide an extended school year so students can strengthen their skills and increase their knowledge.
We are committed to providing your children with the best academic experience possible and returning to in-person learning as soon it can be safely done. We do appreciate your continued support as we work through this unprecedented time together. If you have questions or concerns, we invite you to attend our next Family Forum on Wednesday, January 27 at 5 p.m. on Zoom. (Login details will be emailed soon.)
Ellen Linzey, Executive Director
Mike Nawrocki, Principal
Brianna Murphy, Vice Principal