ABS Thursday Notes- August 26, 2021

Published for the Arts Based School Community

August 26, 2021


How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert


“Volunteers are love in motion.” - Author Unknown

Twenty years ago, in the brand new Arts Based Elementary School, I taught 3rd grade in an enormous room filled with light, thirteen children, and not much more. We managed to collect enough tables and chairs, but there was lots of open space. (That was good for dancing!) There was an old beater of a piano too, perhaps donated by a parent.

One afternoon, as students lay on their tummies working on drawings or independent reading, parent volunteer Peter Kairoff, whose child was in my class, visited our room. He sat down unexpectedly at the piano and played a soft cascade of bird-like music by Scarlatti. The students absorbed the music as if they were bathing in enchantment, and carried on with their assignments, smiling. Those moments are frozen in time, for me.

I heard Peter in concert a few weeks ago. (Still amazing.) I asked him whether he remembered that day. He smiled broadly and replied “Oh, very clearly!” It was as rewarding for him to make that contribution as it was for us to receive it.

Volunteers are the lifeblood that sustains us here at ABS. Just today, Ms. Hollis reminded me of the time when a 6th grader kicked a ball up onto the unreachable roof of the middle school right at dismissal time, and his shoe flew along with the ball. A parent who was a roofer happened to be in the traffic line, equipment and all. He quickly pulled over and retrieved the shoe.

Last week, I noticed that the colorful sign on the front of our MLK building had miraculously been transformed from peeling and scruffy to fresh and brilliant. When we noticed the scruffy version, I emailed parent volunteer/artist John Blackburn and asked whether he could restore the sign he had created for us years ago. He cold-called some companies to find a fair price for scaffolding. He happened to reach out to Ebert Signs, where Wilson Ebert, upon learning that John was donating his work to the school, said that he was an ABS parent too. He volunteered to assist with what John describes as a “gi-normous lift truck” and the job was finished in one morning.

A few weeks ago, a flood of parents mowed and weeded and cut and cleaned our grounds, so they were transformed from the Covid-neglected, overgrown sleeping beauty thorn grove to familiar spaces and pathways.

Parents bring home costumes and packets and paper-cutting projects and computer-based jobs to work on. They cut trees and brush, they shower the teachers with gifts, they organize and staff the libraries. They donate their artistry, their skills, their supervisory presence. They create fundraisers, donate money, read with students, direct traffic, clean the basement, serve pizza, install new equipment, provide decorations, accompany students on field trips, and move theater sets.

Volunteering is woven into our culture. Our ABS school board is all volunteer, and the inaugural board members in the days of yore lifted and carried all of the furniture from our first location to the one we have now, tying a tumble of bookshelves and desks down in the backs of various pickup trucks and hauling them down the hallways. 

When you are a little, self-sufficient charter school, you rely on parent volunteers to help fill in the spaces. Our request of an hour per student, per week, is an opportunity for parents to contribute to the rich, familial atmosphere of our school. We know that some folks can’t fulfill that expectation, but we welcome those who can. We’re so grateful for folks who are able and willing to donate their volunteer time to us! 

So, how do you volunteer? How do you find out what and who needs your help? Read on!

(That old piano, by the way, is still in our MLK building. It is encrusted with mosaic representations of both the Italian and the Harlem Renaissance, and we still play it now and then.)


Volunteer Task

Mrs. Siebert is seeking parent volunteers who can help convert CDs to digital data to store in our Google Drive. You will need a CD drive. (I have one to loan out, which requires a USB port.) Please email Mary Siebert at msiebert@artsbasedschool.com


Traffic Volunteers are still very much needed for school days! Please email Donna Brown if you can help tame the traffic in the mornings (7:45-8:15am) and in the afternoons (2:30-3:00pm).


Background Check FAQs

With the hope of clearing up any confusion about the background check policy for volunteering at ABS, we have created a new FAQ sheet. Things to know:

  • All volunteers should report to the front office to check in and receive a visitor badge. 
  • Every volunteer undergoes a national sex offender registry check. 
  • Volunteers who work with students separate from a staff member also submit a complete criminal background check. A clean check must come back before a parent can volunteer in those jobs. 
  • Volunteers are screened periodically, and ABS has the right to criminal history at any time. 

Additional information on volunteering in general is available on the Volunteering page in the Family Portal section of our website.


Welcome to our New School Nurse!

ABS is very pleased to welcome our new school nurse, Stephanie Smith. The school has received funding through the NCDHHS to support this position. The nurse’s office will be located in the MLK building, but serve all students. In addition to caring for sick students, our nurses will help ABS implement COVID protocols, contact tracing, and manage our school COVID dashboard. 


COVID Screening at ABS

As you may remember, we partnered with Concentric by Ginkgo to provide an optional and completely free pooled testing program. Although this testing is optional, we are hopeful that most of our students will participate to help safeguard our school community’s wellbeing. 

We anticipate weekly testing in all classrooms beginning Tuesday, August 31. So far we have 68% of our students participating in the program with signed consent forms. 

To get started, please fill out the consent form with your permission to perform a COVID-19 pooled test for your student at ABS. This process should take no more than 5 minutes to complete using a computer or a smartphone. 


  1. First, click here (https://testcenter.concentricbyginkgo.com/minor-consent). 
  2. Then, enter this access code: 42DLUR
  3. Finally, enter your child’s information, and you’re done!

Note: If you need to provide consent for more than one child, please complete the process once for each child. For more information, visit Concentric by Ginkgo’s website 


Traffic Reminders—Please be a good neighbor!

Please remember to use common sense and good courtesy as you drive through our traffic line each morning and afternoon—especially for our neighbors at 757 North Apartments, Goler Memorial AME Zion Church, Foundations Early Learning Center, the North Chestnut St. homes, and Lloyd Presbyterian Church. Parents at Foundations Early Learning Center are also dropping off their children on their way to work in the mornings, so please remember to leave space at their driveway so that cars can come and go. 


Beginning of Grade Test (BOG)

The State Board of Education requires a standardized reading test for all third graders in North Carolina. Third grade students will take the Beginning of Grade (BOG) test in reading. A student’s BOG score will be used as baseline data to measure growth as well as a screening tool to identify those students who will need remediation to pass the End of Grade test. The NC Read to Achieve initiative which requires retention for students who do not pass the Reading EOG at third grade. The test has 42 questions, takes approximately 90 minutes to complete, and is administered online at school. It will be administered on September 2. Testing accommodations will be provided for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEP). Make-up tests will be required for any student that is absent from the regular administration of the test.


Fall Fest Postponed

We have made the difficult, but necessary decision to postpone this year’s Fall Fest until the Spring, when it will hopefully be safer for a large outdoor gathering. If you love to throw a good party, and you’d like to help us make the magic happen, please let us know


Subs Needed

Of course, it’s nearly impossible to replace our great teachers, but our ABS subs do a mighty fine job when the need arises. Our school uses our own pool of subs and we’re always looking for patient, kind, and reliable people to add to our list. If you are interested in subbing at ABS, please reach out to Stephanie LeFever to learn more about it.


Activity Fees

ABS is publicly funded and free to all students. We ask families to contribute a $40 activity fee each year to help cover the costs of our field trips, special arts activities, and more. Scholarships for the activity fee are available; please contact Angela Garner. You may pay your fee via our secure online form or by sending a check to the school. Thank you!


Looking for more information about our school?

As an ABS parent, you also have access to the Family Portal section of our website, where you can access a new Pizza Friday payment form, a volunteer hours form, and detailed information about a host of topics. If you need help accessing the portal, please email Leah Lavin.

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