ABS Thursday Notes- March 4, 2021

Published for the Arts Based School Community

March 4, 2021

How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert

The urge to draw must be quite deep within us, because children love to do it.” - David Hockney

As a child, I often passed the clay department in the local university’s art building. I was intrigued by its mysterious, earthy colors and smells, its quiet professors with stained, rough and confident hands, and shelf after shelf of air-drying objects. This was a foreign land to me. My K-8 school offered no art classes, and it never occurred to my musical parents to enroll us in art classes outside of school.

Jim Sanders, one of the founders of The Arts Based School, was an accomplished visual artist and Executive Director of The Sawtooth Center, he laid the groundwork for ABS’ visual art during the summer before classes began. Only three teachers had been hired by July of 2002. We traveled around the area with Mr. Sanders, visiting public works of art, museums and galleries, and taking classes at Sawtooth in a variety of media. Because we began ABS with no specialists, we would be the art teachers in our own classes. He wanted us to be familiar with many possibilities.

At one of these classes, we learned to wedge clay and hand build with slabs that we rolled out, embellishing it with carving and stamping tools. I felt I’d been invited into “the room where it happens.” To engage your hands in wet clay slip, in paint, in paper-making, you focus entirely on the process in front of you. To feel the materials resisting or giving way was soothing and centering. And the scent of art materials can be mesmerizing. 

One teacher remarked that he found the process unsettling and “scary” because it was new and unfamiliar. He worried about getting things right. He was afraid he wasn’t good at it, and he wondered whether our students might also find these new processes frightening. We talked then about how any subject has the potential to cause similar anxiety in some students. It was good to be reminded of beginner’s mind as well as performance anxiety, and to consider how important it is for teachers to provide safe scaffolding for individualized learning. We agreed that our school would display the art of all students who complete their work, not praising only the most accomplished, but honoring and celebrating learning and self-expression. We want every child to feel invited into the studio with equal welcome and support.

I love watching our art classes at ABS. There is a centered, focused, buoyant quality unique to art. Our teachers, Ms. Gledhill and Mr. Schmoyer, are steady, clear, and reassuring. It’s cheering and quieting to observe, and it appears to have the same effect on the students. In school, where the alphabet, cell structure, algebra or reading a chapter book will all be new challenges, most children, (unlike my early colleague,) seem to feel more confidence and safety in art making. They have handled pencil, paper, and crayons before. They have played in mud, sand, and autumn leaves. It’s a world they know, and natural instinct and curiosity aid in their development. 

Art teachers use directive language that is specific to art. Some of it is from the art curriculum, but some of it is just art talk. For example, art teachers often say: “come in,” as in “Now you’re going to come in and fill in this space with color.” Or: “Next, you’ll come in, and push the needle through here…” Displaying their own example, they say, “I decided not to do it that way. I wanted to make an oval instead of a square, but you can do whatever you want.” The other day I heard a student in Ms. Gledhill’s class ask, “Is it OK if I do it this way?” She answered: “Who is the artist?” He answered “I am.” In art class you develop the feeling that you, and only you, are the progenitor of this piece. You are the one who can come in, and make choices. Only you.

ReOpening School Plans

The Arts Based School Board will consider the return to in-person learning at the next Board meeting on Tuesday, March 9.

We continue to prepare for the return to the classrooms for parents that choose that option for their child. We are committed to following all current required health and safety requirements provided by NCDHHS.

We are working with three plans:

  • K-5 would follow Plan A: Regular schedule, 4 days a week, minimal distancing, mask mandatory.
  • 6-8 would follow Plan B: 6 ft distancing, every other day attendance, mask mandatory.
  • Some students would elect Plan C: Remote Learning - Joining the classroom instruction via Zoom while the teacher is teaching those in the 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. Our next virtual information meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 10th at 12 pm. You will receive an invitation and link via your email from Evite. If you have specific topics or questions, please send them to us via this form so we can be sure to address them. Form to submit questions.

What can parents do to get ready for in-person learning?

  • Download Pikmykid app to your phone. 
  • Have children practice wearing masks.
  • Stayed tuned for updates. 
  • Continue to educate yourself and review the COVID safety protocols.
  • Consider what option your family will choose between in person and remote learning so you are ready to complete the confirmation form.

PikMyKid App

So far we have 59 parents who have registered with the Pikmykid app. That’s 9% of our parents. For families who choose to return to in-person learning, it is important that you 

download the PikMyKid parent smartphone app on IOS or Android. Once you have downloaded the app, you will press the “Register” button and follow the prompts to sign up. When you have successfully registered, please log in, allow notifications, and check to make sure that you see your ABS student(s) listed. If you do not see your child’s name, it is most likely because we do not have your mobile phone information. Please contact Stephanie LeFever at [email protected]

If you do not have a smartphone or are unable to download the PikMyKid app for any reason, please email Leah Lavin so that we can help find a solution: [email protected] 

For more information about Pikmykid, visit our school website.

Virtual Conference Time is Coming

Soon your child’s teacher will be setting up conferences to discuss your child’s progress. Students attending the Arts Based School are assessed using a portfolio system in place of the traditional report card. The portfolio is designed to illustrate a student’s academic growth and successes as well as guide the teacher in planning appropriate instruction. Teachers at ABS do not issue letter grades until 6th grade. Teachers use observation, interviews, analysis of student work, and performance tasks to assess student understanding. Examples of student work, as well as other objective standards of assessments, are incorporated into the student’s portfolio to give an enhanced portrait of the student’s progress. These portfolios will be discussed and presented to parents during the virtual Student-Teacher-Parent conferences. Please be sure you schedule and attend your conference so that you can support your child’s learning. 

Conference Days: March 5 Early Dismissal

  • March 5: No live classes after 12 pm to allow time for conferences/prep
  • March 8: No School/No Remote Learning


Spring is nearly here! If you missed the first round of orders, it’s not too late! Our beautiful new ABS shirts were designed by Ellen Heck, and are printed locally on high-quality cotton t-shirts. As soon as they are ready, you may pick them up in the MLK lobby. (We’ll email you to let you know.) We will place our next order tomorrow, March 5, so place your order here today!

Courtyard Construction Update 

We are excited to see the progress on the Courtyard Construction. The additional space will provide a music room and gym/multipurpose space. We are hopeful the project will be completed by late Spring.  Here are some pictures to see the progress.

8th Grade "Guess Who?" and All Grades Virtual Learning Photos Needed

Please email [email protected] one toddler or baby photo of your 8th grader for the Yearbook's 8th grade "Guess Who?" Page ASAP. All grades may also submit photos of your student learning virtually.


Yearbooks may be ordered for $22 online via YEARBOOK ORDERS (deadline is April 15). Photos should be emailed to [email protected] and please list your child's grade/teacher. Thank you!

ABS Regular Board Meeting

The ABS Board of Directors will meet on March 9, 2021 at 5:45pm using a virtual meeting platform. Board meetings are open to the public. If you would like to view the meeting, please email Principal Hollis [email protected] for the link.

During the March 9th board meeting, the ABS Board of Directors will be voting again on a motion from the Executive Committee to reopen the school in person. For the motion to pass, it will need to gather a majority of votes from the board members who are present. There will be a 15 minute segment in the meeting allotted to comments from community members, with comments limited to 1.5 minutes each. If you would like to write a letter to the Board, please submit this letter to the chairperson by Friday, March 5th, to allow time for board members to read and reflect. We ask that if you have already submitted a letter to the board, you refrain from commenting again in the community section of the board meeting. We would like for all who wish to comment to be able to do so, while also reserving time for discussion and debate among board members.

Friday Sing

We find that screen fatigue has contributed to such a low attendance that it’s time to adjust this tradition until we can gather in person again. This month, there will not be a First Friday Sing. In upcoming months, we will be sharing “reruns” of our videos from last spring. We look forward to the day when we can sing together again, in person! Until then, Mrs. B. will still be teaching the songs and singing with our K-4 students in music class.