News from Marshall Simonds Middle School- September 4, 2020

News from Marshall Simonds Middle School- September 4, 2020

September 4, 2020


I want to begin by thanking our MSMS families for their continued patience and understanding as we work to prepare for our students' return, whether in person or remotely.  Starting a school year is always a complex process.  The added complexity of starting a school year during a pandemic has presented even more challenges.  We are not able to rely on “what we did last year”, as everything that we are doing is different than it was last year.  I do not offer this as an excuse for our delayed communication about placement, not being able to use Aspen (our student management system) to communicate scheduling information, or the long wait during yesterday’s iPad pick-up, rather as an explanation.  Please know we will continue to do our best to prepare for our First Day of School and to get you the information that you need to support your child’s return to school.


Cohort Assignments, Team Placements, and Home Base Assignments

Letters with cohort assignments, team placements, and home base assignments were sent home via mail earlier this week.  We anticipate that they will be delivered to mailboxes today or tomorrow.  We understand that elementary schools and Burlington High School were able to get this information out to families earlier than we did and I apologize for any additional stress this created for your family.  Please keep in mind that each school level has different needs and each schedule has its own complexities.


Because we developed a completely new schedule for this school year, we have not been able to use Aspen (our student management system) to create the schedule. We are working to enter the scheduling information into Aspen and unfortunately student schedule information will not be readily accessible to families for a few weeks.  


Finally, we do consider placements final at this point.  The current requirement to cohort students and limit student transitions significantly limits our ability to make scheduling changes.  


School Start and End Times

The MSMS start and end times are one of the only things that have not changed this school year.  Our school hours are 7:35am - 1:55pm.  Because it will take additional time to have our students enter the building practicing social distancing and because we expect an increase in parents drop-offs and students walking, we are adjusting our homeroom practices to extend the length of time students can arrive at school.  We will allow students to begin entering the building at 7:20am.  Will will not be taking homeroom attendance until 8:00am.  We hope that this 40 minute arrival span will allow us to safely fill the building.  Once we get the year up and running, if needed, we will make adjustments to these times to lengthen or shorten the arrival window.

Virtual Coffee Hour

We will be hosting a virtual coffee hour on Tuesday, September 8 at 6:30 pm.  The main purpose of this meeting is to provide another overview of the schedule, review the schedule for the first two days of school, and to review the expectations for students and families for the coming school year.  We are hoping that this will answer questions that you and your child may have while reducing some of the beginning of the school year jitters.


For security purposes, we are asking people who are interested in attending to complete this form. [ ]  The meeting will be held using Cisco Webex and a link will be sent at 5pm on Tuesday to those who have RSVPed.


Student Email Passwords

Student passwords were changed by our IT department this summer in order to update the iPads for the coming school year.  As we prepare to come back to school, students will need to have access to their school Google Account.  The current passwords should be set to the student’s initials and their LASID.  The formula is lowercase first initial + lowercase last initial + 6 digit LASID.  For example, jm123456.  If you have trouble logging into your account, please email the MSMS Instructional Technology Specialist, Mrs. O’leary at for support.

Device Distribution

Burlington Public Schools are excited to provide students with an iPad for use in school and during remote learning.  Before we are allowed to distribute an iPad, Burlington Public Schools requires that families complete a 1:1 iPad Statement of Responsibility form.  In this form, there is a required video explaining the BPS 1:1 iPad program, information about liability and optional (highly recommended) device insurance, and the BPS student responsible use policy.


When your child receives their device, the lock screen will display their Name, LASID, and grade level.  The system that manages the iPads is connected to our student information system, Aspen.  As a result, the grade level displayed on the lock screen may be incorrect.  This will not cause any issue for your child in regards to connecting to virtual classes and accessing necessary apps.  Once Aspen is 100% updated with our master schedule, the iPad management system will automatically process updates and correct the grade seen on the lock screen.

Students in grades 7 and 8 are receiving a brand new iPad and brand new keyboard cases, which we are excited about.  However, the shipment of keyboard cases has been impacted by the current health crisis and has been delayed until early October   Since the devices are new and have different dimensions, the existing cases we have in inventory will not fit this new model iPad.  

Families of students in grades 7 & 8 have two options:  

  • Option 1 - We can still distribute the device to you.  We will include the cardboard box the device was shipped in, which will provide some protection.  However, it is important to understand that you are assuming liability for accidental damage to the device and there is additional risk involved due to the fact that the device does not have a case.

  • Option 2 - If you have a device at home that your student can use until the cases arrive, you can forgo the iPad pickup for now and we will distribute your iPad when the keyboard cases arrive.  We will still allow your student to use the uncased iPad in school if they are engaging in the hybrid learning model, but the device will remain in school.


Distribution Dates and Times

We will have a drive through pick-up from 12:00-2:00pm and 5:00-6:30pm on Tuesday, 9/8 for students in Grades 7 & 8.  Any student in Grade 6 who still needs to pick up their device can also pick it up during these time slots. Please note that the Grade 6 WEB Orientation is from 1:00-2:30pm on Tuesday. Grade 6 students will need a computer device to participate in the virtual orientation session.


We will not distribute a device unless the forms (see link above) have been previously completed.


Expectations for the 2020 School Year

It will come as no surprise that this year will be different than any other school year that your child has experienced. We wanted to take a few minutes to review some of the changes that students can expect.  While we are planning on communicating this with students in various ways next week and during the first days of school, we are asking for you to start to communicate and prepare your child for a year like no other.


We understand that there is a wide range of beliefs about the severity of the virus, the need to mitigate the potential spread, and comfort with following the public health guidelines established by the Center for Disease Control, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Burlington Board of Health, and the protocols that have been established by the Burlington Public Schools.  As we get ready for our students to return to school for the first time in six months, it is important to remember that we are a community and that we all need to do our part to keep the members of our community health and safe.  


Here are some reminders of our expectations as we enter into the school year. 


School Start and End Times

The MSMS start and end times are one of the only things that have not changed this school year.  Our school hours are 7:35am - 1:55pm.  Because it will take additional time to have our students enter the building practicing social distancing and because we expect an increase in parents drop-offs and students walking, we are adjusting our homeroom practices to extend the length of time students can arrive at school.  We will allow students to begin entering the building at 7:20am.  Will will not be taking homeroom attendance until 8:00am.  We hope that this 40 minute arrival span will allow us to safely fill the building.  Once we get the year up and running, if needed, we will make adjustments to these times to lengthen or shorten the arrival window.

Remote Learning Expectations

Whether your child is participating in the hybrid or fully remote program this year, they will be expected to engage in learning activities remotely.  Last spring, considering no one was prepared for the emergency remote learning situation, we had low expectations for participation and engagement.  It is important that students and families know that this year, remote learning days are school days and there is an expectation of virtual attendance and active engagement. 

Daily Attendance is Required

Every school day, whether your child is attending in-person or remotely, we are required to take attendance.  Attendance will be taken during arrival each day for students on their in-person days.  Students who are participating remotely will be expected to log in to a home base Google Meet (we will share information with students and families on how to do this) where the teacher will take attendance at 7:45am.  These students will also be expected to watch our morning announcements which will be streamed daily.  Finally, during remote learning days (for hybrid or 100% remote) attendance will be taken during each of the students virtual classes.

Active Participation in Virtual Classes is Expected

Last year, we allowed students not to turn their cameras when attending a virtual class.  This year, we will be expecting all students to follow the school-wide virtual meeting norms:


  • Cameras On

  • Microphones Off (unless called on to participate)

  • Chat is Only for Raising Hand or Responding to Teacher’s Prompt (no off topic conversation or “spamming”)


Teachers will be explaining and practicing these expectations with students regularly at the beginning of the year as we build a new habit.  Inappropriate or disruptive student behavior will be addressed in a progressive way, just as it would when students are present in the school building.  If for any reason your child is not able to follow these norms or if you have any questions, please contact your child's guidance counselor.


As some of us have learned over the past few months, if you were able to work from home, how we are dressed and our work space impacts how we feel and perform.  It is important for families to maintain a school routine, even on remote learning days.  Students should be dressed for school and seated at a workspace (whatever that may look like in your home)  when attending virtual classes.  Students should have their cell phones off and away, just like they would when present in the school building.

Health and Safety Expectations

Masks are Required

Anyone entering the Marshall Simonds Middle School building is expected to wear an approved mask.  Please note that coverings such as bandanas, gaiters, and masks with an exhalation valve have not been approved as viable masks in BPS, as they do not adequately stop the spread of droplets. While we will have around 2 mask breaks a day (lunch and at least one other time), it is expected that students wear their mask for the entire school day.  We highly recommend extending the amount of time your child wears a mask over the next several days to begin to prepare them for extended mask wearing when in school. A suggestion one of our teachers had was to have your children wear a mask while doing a preferred activity, like watching a movie.

Frequent Hand Washing/Sanitizing Required

We will be requiring students to wash/sanitize their hands several times during the day.  We have hand sanitizer located throughout the building and in every classroom.  We will provide more specific information about when and how students are expected to wash/sanitize their hands when we communicate directly with them.  We ask for your support by reminding students that if they are asked to wash/sanitize that they comply.  While we will have plenty of sanitizer available, families are encouraged to send their child with a small personal bottle in their backpack or lunch box.  This will help us in expediting some of our hand washing/sanitizing routines. 

Physical Distance Required

I have often joked that middle school students “can’t keep their hands to themselves” when describing how adolescents interact with their peers, especially during less structured times.  While the changed schedule and grouping of students has greatly reduced the number of times students are in less structured or less supervised situations, it will be important that students respect each other’s personal space and maintain as much physical distance from their peers as possible. 


Beginning when children are very young, we teach them that “sharing is caring” and encourage them to share with others.  In order to minimize the possibility of “sharing” Covid-19 and other germs, we will be asking students not to share.  Please know that our teachers have been working hard to organize their classrooms in a way that every student will have what they need to engage in learning.  


Movement Will be Minimal

Students are used to asking to move throughout the building, with permission, throughout the day.  They will ask to go to the office to call home, ask to get a drink from the bubbler (whether they are thirsty or their friend just walked by), or they will ask to go to their locker for an item or a break.  This year, we will be minimizing unsupervised student movement throughout the building.

  • Students are asked to bring enough water with them for the entire day.  Water fountains will be closed. 

  • Lockers will not be assigned to students this year.  Students will need to bring their materials with them in the classroom and take them home with them each day.

  • If students forget something at home, they can bring it in the next day. 

  • Each grade level will be assigned a bathroom location. Only one student will be allowed in a bathroom at a time.

  • Lunches will be eaten in the classroom or outside at the teacher’s discretion.  We will provide additional information about lunch procedures once students are back in the building.

Visitors to the Building

We pride ourselves on establishing relationships with our families and welcoming you all into our school community.  While we will still be working hard on establishing and maintaining these relationships, we will be limiting access to the building by non-students and non-employees.  Many of our typical community events will continue to be held in a virtual format.  We ask that you refrain from dropping items off for your child during the school day, unless it is absolutely necessary.  If your child forgets a notebook or an assignment, the teacher will demonstrate flexibility and understanding. If you must drop something off, you will be asked to leave it on the cart that is located near the main entrance.  We will be further communicating procedures for early dismissal of students (for a medical appointment) as we get the school year underway.

Lost Textbooks

Last year we were not able to follow many of our established procedures for collecting materials, including books, from students.  Now that teachers are back and have had a chance to inventory our books, we find ourselves missing a number of textbooks, novels, and other materials.  If you have any books in your possession from last year, please return them to the cart in the front of the main entrance at your earliest convenience.  This will help us make sure that all students have the tools necessary to engage in learning this year.

Summer Reading Update

The ELA department (grades 6-8) has decided to change our usual summer reading program for the upcoming school year. Due to the lack of availability of novels and the challenging circumstances we all have faced over the last few months, we have decided to cancel all summer reading assessments. There will be no graded assignments based on work from the summer. Students who were able to do the reading(s) will be given an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through discussions, journals, or other activities decided upon by each teacher. By eliminating these assignments, the ELA department is hoping that every student will have a fresh and successful start to this new school year!

News from Our Nurses’ Office

The school nurses are looking forward to having the students back at MSMS. We wanted to share links to documentation that you may want to have readily available due to the current status of COVID-19. The 10 steps to prepare to return to school has suggestions for families to help with the transition back to school. Please keep the Parent Home Screening and Dismissal Expectations handy for the daily morning screenings of your child prior to school. Copies of the Home Screening and Dismissal Expectations form and the Emergency Medical Information form will be sent home to be completed and signed by a parent/guardian and we ask that you return it at your earliest convenience. The Illness Guidelines have been updated to reflect COVID-19. During the past few weeks, BPS reopening feedback sessions have been airing on BCAT. If you have not already viewed the BPS Reopening Feedback Session with Dr. Conti and Barbara Conley, Head of Nursing you may want to view it at your convenience as it answers many questions that you may have as a parent of a child attending Burlington Public School. This Parent COVID Education Presentation Slides is the same as what was presented during the feedback session. Additionally, the Flu Vaccine is a requirement of all students in ANY model of learning. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation as our goal is to keep our students and staff healthy and safe while at school.   


Medication Drop-off

Tuesday, September 8th, from 10am-12pm will be our last scheduled day and time to drop-off medications and doctor’s orders. As with many of our other procedures, medication drop-off will be conducted differently this year. For safety reasons, medication drop-off will be held outside at the front entrance of the building. Please bring all of the required paperwork and medications during the drop-off. There will be a table set up where we will confirm that paperwork and medical supplies are complete. We ask that you wear a face-covering during drop-off. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

Based on your child’s medication needs, please complete the appropriate plan:

- Allergy Medication Letter with Action Plan and Consent

- Respiratory Medication Letter with Action Plan and Consent

- Seizure Medication Letter with Action Plan and Consent

- Medication Letter with Plan and Consent

Please make every effort to make this drop off time. If you cannot make it during this time, please reach out to us to set up a separate opportunity. Please note, this email is going out to all of the MSMS families. If your student is not on any medications, you do not have to respond to this email.

Art Contest

The Marshall Simonds Art Department participated in the 2020 Maritime Art Contest presented by Massachusetts Marine Educators and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. With over 200 entries, five MSMS students were given honorable mentions. Congratulations to these fantastic artists! We are so proud of these students who created these works REMOTELY at home completing some amazing pieces!

  • Northern Moon Snail by Jillian Gillis,  gr.8

  • Atlantic Puffin with Fish by Von Larson, gr.6

  • Green Sea Turtle and Jellies by Julianna Machado, gr.6

  • Cormorant Portrait by Rishitha Ravi, gr.7

  • Snake Blenny by Sonia Plewa, gr.7

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