MADISON Its good to be back, was the overwhelming sentiment from students and staff after the first two days of the 2020-21 school year at Madison and Freedom elementary schools.
Principals at the schools part of SAU 13, which started the school year Monday, are upbeat despite challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its a whole new world, but everyone seems to be adjusting the best we can, Freedom Elementary School Principal Pat Stone told the Sun by phone Tuesday. The kids are excited to be back with their friends and eager to have some sense of normalcy in their schedules.
Things are really going well, Heather Woodward, principal of Madison Elementary School, said by phone Tuesday. The kids seem happy, the staff are pleased to be back.
The 2019-20 school year switched from in-person to remote learning on Friday, March 13, due to the coronavirus pandemic. While it was initially thought the closure would last two weeks, it stretched through the final third of the school year.
For most students, it marked the return to the classroom for the first time in six months.
SAU 13 Superintendent Meredith Nadeau visited both schools on opening day and on Tuesday met with third- and fourth-grade students outside for a friendly meet-and-greet.
Lots of smiles the children seem really happy to be back, and its great to see them back, she said. Well continue to take things one day at a time. I think children seem to be adjusting well to the new routine.
Freedom has 51 students in the K-6 school, with roughly one-third opting to continue doing remote learning rather than face-to-face instruction.
Weve had a few technical glitches with broadband, Stone said of the start to remote learning. Were having trouble maintaining connections (over the internet), but hopefully, well get them straightened out. Nadeau said she has been in touch with the service provider for Freedom, and work is being done to fix the hot spots.
Madison has 127 students in grades K-6, with 25 (roughly 20 percent) choosing remote learning.
SAU 13, which serves Freedom, Madison and the K.A. Brett School in Tamworth (K-8), came up three options: face-to-face, remote learning or a hybrid of the two in its re-entry plan.
The three school boards chose face-to-face, but heard concerns from families who were not quite comfortable sending children back to school just yet. The boards and schools decided to offer both face-to-face and a remote learning option.
We felt like we needed to have this option available to people, Woodward said. We wanted parents to have a choice and to choose which route they were most comfortable with.
Remote learning began Tuesday for the Mustangs of Madison. It went super, Woodward said.
Nadeau is pleased to see school back in session. If you had asked me in early July, Im not sure I would have thought wed get here, she said, but Im so grateful we are. Fortunately, the cases in New Hampshire have remained low, and if that can continue, it bodes well.
Woodward and Stone along with other educators spent the bulk of the summer preparing for a return to school.
I didnt sign up for summers off, Woodward said. We knew we had a lot of important work to do. I cant say enough about the staff. Theyve worked tirelessly to make this happen.
Madisons theme this school year is We are M.E.S. and will focus on several different characteristics each month. We figured wed start with, We are flexible, Woodward said. That seemed like an appropriate starter.
The Eagles of Freedom are focusing on four core beliefs being safe, kind, responsible and respectful this year.
Both Stone and Woodward have seen an uptick in new students. We have had an influx of new students, said Woodward. Every year we see some new students, maybe were up a little bit more than in the past.
We have 12 new students this year, Stone said. Its nice having new faces. They all seem to be settling in well.
Nadeau urged families with children attending Kennett High and Kennett Middle School in Conway to go to the school websites to get updates on the school bus routes which are still being finalized.
Madison and Freedom have no school this Friday or on Monday (Labor Day) or Tuesday as both schools will be used for voting in the primary election.
The Brett School will also be a polling center for Tamworth on Tuesday, meaning Wednesday, Sept. 9, will be the first day for the Tigers to attend classes.
While the Brett School and Freedom have made masks mandatory all times, students in Madison can remove their masks in their classrooms provided they are at least 6 feet away from other individuals.
The Brett School will be providing both face-to-face and remote learning, but classes will be held just Monday through Thursday.
Fridays school staff will be available for office hours only, according to the schools opening plan.
Classroom teachers, students and parents need on-going supports during this time, the plan states. KAB will create collaborative learning teams to support KAB staff and the families of remote learners. Parents will be supported through KAB staff guidance using Google Classroom other curriculum tools. In addition, social and emotional well-being of students will be supported by the KAB school counselor to students, staff and families.
Although we know remote learning during the spring was a major challenge for teachers, we also recognize that in many cases the disruption for families has been even greater. Our goal this year is to help parents best support their child, learn how and when to intervene and provide structure and balance in the home while providing instruction.
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