Ayer Shirley School District continues to function remotely

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AYER — With its four facilities in the two member towns shuttered until at least May 4 due to Covid-19 concerns and per the governor’s order, and all extracurricular activities on hold, the Ayer Shirley Regional School District is keeping students engaged and online until schools open again while facing logistical scrambles and developing remote learning plans on the fly.

In a video conference earlier this month, ASRSD Superintendent Mary Malone briefed the school community, with key dates, cancellations and changes, and some idea of what to expect, going forward.

Here are some highlights.

The official last day of school is June 12.

Spring vacation, set to start April 20, has been canceled.

The Monday holiday – April 20 — still stands. (Teachers won’t conduct online sessions or assign homework that day, but it’s business as usual for the rest of the week.)

Grades for the third quarter went out before the shutdown, but students will not get letter grades for the fourth quarter and instead will be graded on a pass/fail basis.

In a statewide move based on legislative action and backed by a waiver from the commissioner of education, MCAS exams have been canceled.

Although teachers are not required to hold “Zoom” classroom sessions, many have been doing so, and the on-line portal that allows parents to view their students’ performance, including grades, teacher input and homework status, is still available.

Other efforts include frequent e-mail updates.

On April 14, for example, Dr. Malone sketched out where things stand.

“As I have stated many times, we were not trained or prepared to provide remote learning for an extended school closure,” she said. But as the shutdown entered its fifth week, staff as well as administrators are doing their level best to continue “the routine and continuity of learning.”

Following up on parent meetings held remotely on Thursday, April 9, two question and answer documents – in several languages – were developed for elementary schools and middle and high schools, respectively, with content based on questions and comments posted in on-line chats.

No word yet on whether the school closure, scheduled to end May 4, will be extended.

The School Committee, also meeting remotely, reviewed an uncertain calendar during its recent session, among other topics on the agenda, noting changes to Town Meeting dates in the two member communities. Ayer’s Town Meeting is now set for June 15 while Shirley’s has been moved to June 23.

In her report to the board, the superintendent said the cancellation of April vacation means remote learning over that period will continue.

“Parents were notified,” she said.