ABS Thursday Notes- October 8, 2020

Published for the Arts Based School Community
October 8, 2020

No School- Monday, Oct 12 Fall Break

How We Do It and Why
by Mary Siebert

Greatness is in the preparation.
- Jack Hyles

There is a lot of creative activity going on here behind the scenes. Here are a few snapshots of current developments:

I am currently teaching a five-day run of classes about the Wild West and the cowboys of the first big American cattle drives, from 1866-1886. The fifth graders were all sent invitations wrapped in red bandanas and tied with twine, and they wear these (plus hats if they have them) to learn through the spectrum of historic cowboy songs. They learn about the “push and pull factors” that brought skilled young livestock herders from all races and far-flung countries to join together in a strange new venture: herding millions of feral long-horned cattle from the Texas plains to newly established railway stockyards, and as far north as the vast plains of Montana. Along the way, they learn about prairie biomes, star constellations, the changing roles of women, the way a yeast cell divides to make sourdough, and how to holler a healthy “yeeeeehaw!” This unit provides a historical backdrop for the Romeo & Juliet on the Border production.

The Stone Cutter
Second graders have embarked upon an immersive visit to Japan, with teachers in the classroom sharing information about the culture and geography of the country, while the arts specialists unite to help students tell the traditional story of The Stonecutter; an ambitious laborer who aspires to become everything from the stone to the sun itself, and finds the richest reward of all incoming full-circle to being...a stonecutter. Second graders received their shiny costumes at a materials exchange two weeks ago, and are meeting with Ms. Adams and Ms. Heidi to film scenes and dances on Zoom that will become three separate classroom tellings of the story, adapted to each group and its performers. Watch for that first release of an ABS video production coming soon!! (...or in other words...whenever it’s finished! This is new and experimental stuff!)

Romeo & Juliet on the Border
The entire 7th Street arts specials team, plus dance teacher Ms. Adams from the MLK building, are conspiring to create a Romeo & Juliet unlike any other, for fifth grade. Clever ideas for Zoom stage combat, dancing, video templates, Shakespearean intimacies and insults, vocal harmonizing, and costume exchanges are being developed as we speak.

Vanishing Point in Old Salem
The third grade team and art teacher Mr. Schmoyer are teaming up to create a local connection to Leonardo DaVinci. The third graders are expected to learn about their local community in social studies, so the teachers are planning a virtual field trip to Old Salem, where they will narrate video about what they see there. Before they visit, Mr. Schmoyer will undertake a spy mission, looking for ideal photos of simple structures and walkways that provide the ideal “vanishing point” view for a third grader to draw. He will snap some photos, and share them, along with address details, with the teachers. They will be sure to include those exact views during their visit. When Mr. Schmoyer is ready to introduce Leonardo’s transformative use of vanishing point in drawing, he’ll send home some special supplies, then pull out those same photos for kids to draw. Teachers will also share the photos and addresses of our house views, so parents who would like to take their students on a drive through Old Salem can easily find the same view. We will ask that students send in their final products for us to post on the walls, and we’ll create a video walk-through art installation of the whole shebang. This is only one facet of a larger, grade-wide study of the Italian Renaissance that will also include theater, dance, and music.

More to come; we’re just getting started!


ReOpening School Plans
On Tuesday, the ABS Board of Directors voted to remain in Plan C until at least November 30, the end of our first trimester. Though this was a difficult decision, our Board Executive Committee and ABS leadership have carefully considered input from parents and teachers, guidance from the state and the scientific community, and data from our community. We understand the importance of this decision in your daily lives, and we know that personal preferences around school reopening vary from family to family. We understand that some of you feel disappointed while others feel relieved. There are no perfect options for reopening our school amid a pandemic; we are grateful to all of you for your support and understanding. 

The full recommendation from the ABS Board Executive Committee is below.

ABS Board Executive Committee Recommendation for ReOpening School (10/5/2020)
The Executive Committee has met regularly during the past two months to discuss the plans for re-opening the Arts Based School for in-person instruction. It is our goal to provide the most effective instruction possible while keeping our students and staff safe and healthy. We have thoughtfully considered the following criteria to inform our decisions and recommendations: 

current health metrics (percent positive COVID-19 tests) in our community, mandates from the governor and the state of North Carolina, teacher and staff safety and survey results, parent survey results, decisions of other schools and districts in our area, data from schools that are currently operating, and the need to maintain quality and consistency of instruction and curriculum for all ABS students.

Based on these criteria, the Executive Committee recommends we remain in Plan C until at least November 30 (following the Thanksgiving holiday). This is the end of our first trimester and therefore provides the next most logical time in our school calendar to evaluate whether we feel it is safe to begin our return to school in person.

We tried to balance the benefits of having students return to school under plan B (social interaction, personal contact with teachers, reduced stress on parents, return to normalcy) with the benefits of staying fully remote under plan C (safety of students, teachers, and their families, consistency in remote instruction for students, parents, and teachers through the first semester, improved quality of teaching and learning when all students are either remote or in class). We were influenced in our decision by the lack of real social interaction between students due to social distancing, the difficulty of teaching 10 students in a classroom and 10 students remotely, and the inability to learn and teach in the traditional ABS style while in a socially distanced classroom.


How Do I Stay Up to Date with School ReOpening Plans?
We’re doing our best to keep ABS families, staff, and community updated with the latest information about our School ReOpening. We will continue to provide information in multiple places, including direct email, Thursday Notes, and Virtual Parent Meetings. If you have specific topics or questions, please send them to us at this form so we can be sure to address them.


mClass Results
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction requires a kindergarten through third-grade reading assessment called mClass to help teachers assess, track, and support each student’s reading skills. Each student will be assessed every trimester using individualized reading assessments. Teachers will use this data to focus their instruction around your child’s specific needs, in areas that may include:

  • Hearing and using sounds in spoken words (Phonemic Awareness)
  • Knowing sounds of letters and sounding out written words (Alphabetic Principle)
  • Reading words in stories easily, quickly, and correctly (Accuracy and Fluency)
  • Understanding what they read (Reading Comprehension)

This week you will receive your child’s specific assessment results. The letter will also include learning activities you and your child can do together at home to reinforce skills learned at school. Parent support and reading at home are a vital part of your child’s education. The teacher’s efforts, combined with your support, will help your child read with mastery and confidence. If you have any questions about the assessment, the activities, or your child’s classroom work and progress, please talk to your child’s teacher.


Annual Giving!
Our Annual Giving campaign is officially underway, and we are truly grateful to everyone who has made a gift thus far! Thank you!

Total School Participation to Date: 6%
Total Gifts to Date: $9,975

This year has been challenging for all of us, and ABS continues to invest in our safety and infrastructure even as we face tremendous uncertainty. Your gift to this year’s Annual Giving campaign will have a deep and immediate impact. Please participate! Making a recurring monthly gift is an excellent way to maximize your gift to ABS, as is sharing the call to action with your extended family and friends.

ABS depends upon the generosity of parents, board members, and our community. We take particular pride in our ability to stretch our limited resources, so you can trust that your contribution, no matter the amount, will be a significant benefit for our school and our students.

We ask all parents for financial support just once each year. Please give as generously as you are able. An Annual Giving letter, envelopes, and FAQs are going home via Materials Exchange. Please click here if you prefer to make a secure gift online. Thank you!


PikMyKid Dismissal App 
In our ongoing efforts to enhance your children’s safety, we will begin using the PikMyKid Dismissal Application. This system will allow us to avoid congregating students at dismissal tents, leaving them inside the classrooms until you arrive in the pickup line. This also allows us to collect daily health screening questionnaires from each student before they arrive on campus.

We are very excited about this addition and know you will be too. Check your emails over the next week for additional information and we will be on our way to a safer, quicker, and more efficient dismissal process. To learn a little more on your own, please check out this link that will show you a few of the PikMyKid features. 


ABS T-Shirts!
We are very excited to introduce beautiful new ABS t-shirts designed by local artist (and ABS parent and board chair) Ellen Heck. The t-shirts will be printed by ABS parents Derry and Lisa George of Dikie The Geek Computer and Printing. T-shirts will be distributed via our Monday Materials Exchanges. Place your order here today!


Parent Council Meeting - Friday, October 16th at 12:00 PM
Please submit any questions or topics you would like to discuss via our parent council link. Please indicate “PC meeting” in your submission. We invite all parents, caregivers, and learning coaches to join us. 

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