Student Handbook - School Policies / Procedures
MEETINGHOUSE SCHOOL WESTMINSTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Entrance & Enrollment Requirements
New students in Kindergarten – Grade 5 need to register when they move into the Ashburnham-Westminster school district. Registration requires proof that the student lives in Westminster by showing a signed purchase and sales agreement, rental agreement, tax bill, or utility statement. In addition, the following information is required when you enroll your student:
- Birth certificate 2. Immunization record 3. Completed enrollment form 4. Proof of residency (as per district policy) If the student lives with someone other than the parent, the following conditions must be met:
∙ A notarized statement indicating the student is living at a valid address within the school district with the name of the owner or renter of the property.
∙ A statement naming the adult who should be contacted for school business such as absences and emergencies.
∙ Both the parent and the caretaker named in these statements must be present at the registration.
∙ The notarized statement must be completed and presented prior to registration.
State law mandates that public schools must enroll students who live in their district, but the law clearly indicates that families may not claim residency for the sole purpose of attending its schools. In cases where legal guardianship is involved, a copy of the court record of guardianship should be provided. An updated Emergency Information form is kept on file in the nurse’s office. This information provides the school with emergency contact and medical history information.
In a case where a Westminster family has moved to a new location in Westminster, new residency documentation must be provided.
For admission to kindergarten, a child must be five (5) on or before August 31st. The staff, prior to placement, will evaluate any child who completed kindergarten outside of the Ashburnham Westminster Regional School District who is not five by August 31st. A family moving to Westminster with a child who does not meet the cutoff date, but who has attended kindergarten elsewhere for six week or more, may enroll the child in kindergarten. The child will be evaluated on an equal standing with his/her peers. An orientation program is held in the spring prior to September for all students and their parents entering kindergarten.
Attendance, Tardiness and Truancy
Regular attendance and punctuality are essential to sequential learning and necessary for satisfactory student progress. The following absences will be excused when the student returns to school with an appropriate note signed by a parent or guardian:
- Illness (requires doctor’s/nurse’s verification)
- Medical, dental or legal appointments
- Religious observances
When an absence is unavoidable, the parent/guardian should notify the school by phone prior to 8:30 am on the day of the absence. Between 3:30 pm and 7:20 am you may leave a message on our answering machine. The office phone number at W.E.S. is 874-2043 and at M.H.S. is 874-0163. Additionally, the parent can email the offices at [email protected] or [email protected] .
If the school is not notified before the school day starts, an automated voice message will come from the school first and if we do not receive a response, the school nurse will attempt to contact you. This is done as a safety check to ensure each student’s well being. If no contact is made, a school resource or other police officer will be sent to the home for a well check. In cases of extended absences and/or serious medical problems, it is the policy to provide home tutoring for students who are unable to attend school because of a long-term illness. A doctor’s written request is required. Arrangements may be made through School Administration.
For absences due to illness longer than 2 days, please contact your child’s teacher to request homework. We discourage parents/guardians from removing their student from school for family vacations outside the regular school schedule. This vacation time will be recorded as an unexcused absence. Because homework reinforces the daily classroom instruction, it may not be feasible for absent students to do the same homework as their classmates. It is important to realize that there is no ideal way to make up for the lost instruction time.
Unexcused absences are those that do not conform to excused reasons. This includes any absence without a valid note. A student will be considered truant if the absence is unexcused.
Students who are late for school (arrival after 8:30 am) must report to the school office for a tardy slip before reporting to their classroom. Tardies that arrive after 11:30 am will be considered an absence.
End of Day Procedures
We discourage early dismissals from school and urge you to schedule doctor, dentist or other appointments outside of school hours, on school holidays, or during vacation time. Extra-curricular activities should also be scheduled to allow students to complete the school day. We will send a written reminder if the number of early dismissals becomes unreasonable or excessive.
On the day of a dismissal, the parent or guardian must send a note to school stating the time of dismissal and who will pick up the student. No student will be dismissed to anyone but a parent/guardian or authorized adult, who must report to the office to meet the student.
Dismissals prior to 11:30 am will be considered an absence.
Any changes to dismissal plans must be made in writing on or before the day of dismissal. In the event of an emergency, a phone call to the school office will need to be followed up by an e-mail or fax.
When a student is going to transfer from WES or MHS to another school system, the respective office and the student’s teacher need to be notified at least 2 days before the student’s impending withdrawal. The parent/guardian must sign a “release of records” form at their new school, giving WES /MHS permission to forward the student’s school records directly to the new school upon request. Parents/guardians may receive a copy of these records with a request to the office.
“No School” Announcements
If school is to be canceled because of inclement weather, the Superintendent of Schools will notify the following radio stations: - WTAG: 580 AM, Worcester - WXLO:104.5 FM, Worcester - WRKO Channel 7 TV
- WSRS:96.1FM Worcester -WCVB Channel 5 TV - Fox 25 TV
- WGAW 1340 AM
Parents will also be notified through an automated telephone service of unexpected weather-related closings or delays. Please be sure that your phone numbers are up to date so that you will be notified by this school system.
Unexpected School Closings
If school is to be closed early due to storm conditions, or for other reasons of an emergency nature, students will take their usual means of transportation home. Although it is natural for students to want to call home in an emergency dismissal, with over 500 students in our schools, it is impossible for every student to do so. Parent notification will be provided through radio announcements on the above stations. Parents will also be notified through an automated telephone service of unexpected school closings. PLEASE do not call the schools, as the phone lines need to be kept open for emergency purposes.
The school recommends that families develop a plan for such a situation and inform their children what they should do in the event that parents/guardians are not home at the time of an emergency dismissal.
If the dismissal is district-wide, remember that Oakmont Regional High School and Overlook Middle School are dismissed before the elementary schools. If you have a child at either Oakmont or Overlook, that child will be dismissed first.
Emergency Information Forms
Emergency Information Forms and/or links will be emailed at the beginning of the school year, if you are not able to receive the link you may request a paper copy from the school offices. are sent home with each student on the first day of school. They MUST be completed and returned to school immediately, as they are our only means of reaching you or someone you designate in case of an emergency. We will always try to contact the parents/guardians first but we must have current phone numbers and contacts who are reachable in Westminster or the immediate area. Please make the designated person aware that you are giving their name and number, and inform them of what you expect them to do. Be assured that unlisted phone numbers are treated confidentially.
It is essential that you notify the school of any changes that occur in a family, such as marital status, legal issues, name changes, medical status, address, home and work phone numbers, emergency contacts, etc. Please inform the school office at once when these changes occur so emergency information can be updated in the student’s records. If a student moves within town, a new set of residency documents will be required.
The office staff is pleased to help with any problem or answer any questions concerning school.
Parents/guardians who wish to speak directly to a teacher should leave a message with the office staff and should expect to have calls returned before the start of school the next day. The Principal or Assistant Principal is usually available, but may need to return calls after school hours or in the evening. Please leave both home and work numbers.
Students are encouraged to be responsible for their own belongings and school-related materials. We discourage calls home for forgotten items.
Notes from Parent/Guardians
Written notes from parents/ guardians are required (in addition to excused absences), when your student will be:
- Picked up by someone other than the parent/ guardian.
- Dismissed during the school day.
- Picked up at school rather than taking the bus home, or other similar change in routine.
- Following a standing appointment one day per week such as Brownies, Boy Scouts, etc. One note at the start of the school year will suffice. If there is any change in the schedule, another note is needed.
- Given permission to independently ride a bike to school. (Grades 4 – 5 only)
- Cared for after school by a baby-sitter or family day care provider. Please provide the school with the names and phone numbers of all after-school care providers at the beginning of the school year..
Written notes are essential to insure your child’s safety.
We make every effort to ensure our students have a safe and secure environment in which to learn. To this end, all exterior doors to the building are locked while school is in session, including the front entrance. ALL visitors and volunteers must first report to the office to sign in and obtain a visitor badge.
School Resource Officer
The MHS/WES schools along with other district schools have a school resource officer, SRO, that is shared amongst the buildings. The SRO works collaboratively with the schools to ensure the safety of all students by reviewing and revising safety protocols for schools as well as training staff in best practices.
This position is highly visible in the schools and it has strengthened the relationship between students and local police departments. The SRO position allows the students to understand that the police care for them and can help them in school and in the community. The School Resource Officers provide student and parent workshops throughout the year, including but not limited to; Halloween Safety, Stranger Danger, Self-Defense, and Internet Safety. Also, this position serves as a liaison between the police department and the schools to address any issues or concerns that occurred beyond the school day that could impact a child.
Student Record Regulations
The student record comprises two sections:
- Transcript: includes only minimal information necessary to reflect the student’s educational progress, such as name, address, course titles, grades, credits, and grade level completed. It is kept for at least 60 years after the student leaves the system.
- Temporary record: contains the majority of the information maintained by the school about the student. May include such things as standardized test results, participation in school-sponsored extracurricular activities, evaluations and comments by teachers, counselors, and others.
At the end of Grade 5, only the transcript and standardized test scores are sent to Overlook Middle School. Parents/guardians may send a note stating their desire to pick up, and sign for, the temporary record. All records not picked up by July 31 will be destroyed.
Parents/guardians have the right to inspect all portions of the student record upon request. The school is required to make the record available to you no later than two days after receiving your request, unless you consent to a delay. You also have the right to receive copies of any part of the record, although a reasonable fee may be charged for the cost of duplicating the materials. You may request to have parts of the record interpreted by a qualified school professional, or you may invite anyone else you choose to inspect or interpret the record with you.
With a few exceptions, only parents/guardians, their student (age 14 and over), and school personnel working directly with the student are allowed access to information in the student record without the specific, informed, written consent of the parent/guardian.
Records are stored in a locked cabinet, centrally located in the school and parents/personnel removing the record will sign them in and out.
Parents/guardians have the right to add relevant comments, information, or other written materials to the student record. Additionally, parents/guardians have the right to request that information in the record be amended or deleted. You have a right to a conference with the school Principal to make any objections known. Within a week after the conference, the Principal must render a written decision. If you are not satisfied with that decision, you have the right to appeal it to the Superintendent.
Students are expected to participate in outdoor recess as it is considered part of the regular school program. Outdoor recess is not scheduled during unusually cold or inclement weather. Students should wear clothing and footwear appropriate for the weather.
∙ Clothing should be appropriate for the type of weather. All outerwear and any clothing that may be taken off (coats, sweaters, etc.) should be labeled with an identifying mark. If your child wears boots to school, please send an extra pair of shoes to wear in the building. Sandals and “flip flops” are not appropriate footwear for recess or physical education classes, therefore it is suggested all students have access to sneaker type footwear for ALL activities.
∙ Outside coats or jackets are not to be worn in class unless building conditions necessitate additional clothing.
∙ Students are discouraged from wearing caps, kerchiefs, and bandanas in school. Please keep these items for outside use.
∙ Appropriate clothing choices are appreciated and students are highly discouraged from wearing “short shorts”, tube tops, halter-tops or any clothing items that expose the midriff. Please refrain from sending your child to school with anything that may pose a safety issue on the playground.
∙ Clothing that advertises alcoholic beverages, drugs/tobacco, or with offensive/questionable slogans or messages is not allowed.
∙ Any student who does not dress appropriately as decided by the Principal or designee, will be sent to the nurse or home to change or parents will be called to bring a change of clothes to the school.
Sneakers for Physical Education Class
∙ Children should wear sneakers for gym class. Material should cover the top and toes of the foot and not have straps around the back like a sandal or croc. Proper footwear helps keep children safe especially for running and kicking activities.
District Homework Policy
The School Committee feels that homework is intended to compliment classroom instruction and stimulate student interest. Teachers should post assignments and their due dates so that parents and students can access the schedule of assignments and ensure that they are completed in a timely fashion. Homework, like the daily curriculum, should be grade and class appropriate. This means that homework in any given class or subject may vary in level of difficulty and/or quantity based on individual student differences. Generally homework should be able to be completed independently and promote individual responsibility while being structured so that motivated students can successfully achieve high rates of completion in a timely manner. Homework that requires references and/or resources that are not readily available should never be given.
Homework should also take into account that students need both family and play (free) time for their social and physical development. School projects or homework may be given over a weekend or school vacation and should be assigned so that adequate time is given beforehand so that long term assignments/projects can be completed before the vacation. Long term assignments should not be due on the first day back from vacation. Homework assignments of reasonable length may be given over weekends.
Homework that is incomplete shall be graded so that either partial credit is given or the student is given an opportunity to redo the assignment within a reasonable period of time, with the understanding that full credit will not be given after the assignment due date. In no case shall a student receive a zero on an assignment that contains one or more questions that are completed correctly. Lastly, homework should never be given for disciplinary reasons as this would be counterproductive.
Each grade level school (elementary, middle and high school) should develop their own homework procedures that reflect this policy.
Elementary Homework Policy of AWRSD
The homework policy of the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District is a part of our educational program that fulfills both academic and non academic purposes. It refers to work assigned by a teacher to be completed by the student outside of class time and is not limited to that which can be written. Homework is intended to provide an opportunity for integrating home and school experiences.
The goals of our homework program are:
∙ to encourage shared responsibility of parents, students and teachers
∙ to reinforce skills through appropriate assignments
∙ to create a positive home-school connection
∙ to extend literacy into the home
Responsibilities of Parents
Promote a positive attitude toward homework and reinforce its value by:
∙ establishing a consistent homework routine that includes a quiet work environment with appropriate supplies and materials
∙ clarifying directions
∙ fostering pride in the completed task
∙ communicating with teachers regarding questions and difficulties related to homework
Responsibilities of Students
∙ Receive, record and take home assignments
∙ Ask teacher for clarification and/or help if assignment is not understood
∙ Show effort and do best work
∙ Complete and return assignments on time
∙ Inform teacher of any difficulty regarding the assignment
Responsibilities of Teachers
∙ Communicate homework expectations to parents and students
∙ Ensure that assignments are connected to curriculum and appropriate for students
∙ Create an environment where students are able to ask for clarification of assignments
∙ Provide feedback on homework in a timely manner
∙ Respond to parent concerns and keep parents apprised of homework issues
Public Complaint Policy
The School Committee believes that complaints are best handled informally and resolved as close to their origin as possible, and that the professional staff should be given every opportunity to consider the issues and attempt to resolve the problem prior to involvement by higher levels of administration or the Committee.
Anonymous complaints will be disregarded.
Complaints should go first to the person most directly involved with the substance of the complaint. He/she will listen courteously and will try to resolve the difficulty by explaining the background and/or educational purpose involved. If the complainant remains unsatisfied, the employee will refer the complainant to the building Principal or other immediate supervisor to have his/her views considered further. Whether the complaint terminates with the individual staff member involved or seems likely to go further, the staff member will immediately inform his/her supervisor of the complaint.
Complaints referred directly to the Superintendent and/or School Committee must be in writing and should be specific in terms of the action desired. Such complaints will be referred through proper administrative channels for resolution before investigation or action by the Superintendent and/or Committee. Exceptions will be made when the complaint concerns the Superintendent or Committee actions or operations.
If it appears necessary, the administration, the person who made the complaint, or the employee involved may request an executive session of the Committee for a formal hearing and decision. Statutory restrictions on executive sessions will be observed.
The Committee expects all complaints to be respectfully acknowledged at each level of discussion, including a summary of resolution or next steps. Deliberations rising to the level of Superintendent and/or School Committee require that a report of the final disposition be made to the Committee and then be placed in official files.
The proper channeling of complaints involving instruction, discipline or learning materials will be as follows:
- Staff Member
- School building administrator (Principal, Vice Principal)
- School Committee
Complaints about school personnel will be investigated fully and fairly. The following procedures are established if the complaint is a criticism of a particular school employee that includes, or implies, a demand for action by school authorities.
- If a complaint comes first to the Principal or other supervisor of the person criticized, he/she should listen courteously or acknowledge a letter/e-mail promptly and politely, but should make no commitments, admissions of guilt, or threats. When complaints involve a particular employee, the supervisor will schedule a conference between the complainant and the person criticized and should inform that employee immediately of the complaint. If the complainant has already met with the person criticized and remains unsatisfied, the supervisor should invite the complainant to file his/her complaint in writing and offer to send him/her the appropriate form regarding a school employee's behavior, character or qualifications. The Principal will document all complaints and report them periodically to the Superintendent.
- If a complaint comes first to any other school employee, that employee will refer the complainant to the person criticized or his immediate supervisor and immediately inform both.
- If no written complaint has been filed the complainant may be requested to submit the complaint in writing pending further action.
- The Principal or other supervisor will schedule a conference with himself/herself, the complainant, the person criticized, and if advisable, the department chairman or other personnel that either the supervisor or the person criticized feels could contribute to the resolution of the problem.
- If the complainant is not satisfied with the results of the conference above, he/she should then be referred to the Superintendent, who may handle the complaint personally or refer it to other personnel, as he/she may see fit. Note: at this level the complaint must be formally documented.
- Should dissatisfaction remain after the above steps have been taken, the matter will be placed on the agenda for the next regularly scheduled Committee meeting. The decision of the Committee will be communicated in writing to all interested persons.
The School Committee may consider the matter in the Executive Session subject to Open Meeting and Meeting Posting law requirements.
The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District participates in “school choice”. Requests for admission should be sent to the Superintendent’s office. Each spring, the Superintendent makes public the number of available openings and the corresponding grades. A lottery is held to determine the assignment of these openings. Any parent whose child is admitted to the district under non-resident school choice must accept responsibility for the student’s transportation to and from school.
The faculty discourages the exchange of gifts of any significant value between students and teachers or other school personnel. We know, however, that at holiday times parents often like to acknowledge their child's teacher with a gift. If you plan to do this, donations to your child's classroom and/or the school library are always appreciated.
Lost and Found
Articles left behind at school or turned into the office are placed in the "lost and found" area near the office. Please label everything belonging to your child (clothing, lunch boxes, etc.) with his/her name and grade so that lost items can be returned without delay. This also discourages unauthorized borrowing. Clothing left behind will be donated to local charities two or three times a year.
Books and Materials
Students are responsible for the proper care and return of all books, including library books. Students should have some type of school bag/ backpack in which to carry books and belongings. Teachers and/or administrators will inform Parents/guardians about replacement costs for lost or damaged books. Students and parents will be accountable for the replacement cost of any lost or damaged books.
Electronics: Cell Phones/ Smart Watches/ Electronic Devices
We recognize that parents provide their children with cell phones and smart watches for safety reasons. Therefore, we understand that students may occasionally bring these devices to school.
- Cell phones must remain turned off and stowed away in your child’s bag during the school day, this includes the bus.
- Smart watches must have text and call settings turned off during school hours.
Students are not to call, text, or message their family members or peers during the school day. If students need to reach a family member, they can use one of the phones in the main office. Students may also not photograph or take videos of any staff members or other students in and outside of the building or on the bus. You can help us enforce this policy by not texting your children and calling/answering their calls during the school day.
If a student should bring any electronic device, cell phone, or multi-media device etc. to school, MHS/WES is not responsible for any lost or stolen items.
Cell phones and smartwatches that are being used to make calls, text (family or peers) or play games during the day will be confiscated. Parents will be asked to pick up the device from school.
Due to impending state initiatives and the increasing number of allergies in the school district, we will not be celebrating individual birthdays with items sent in from home. Goodie bags or other items (including food or nonfood items) or deliveries from florists will not be distributed. Individual teachers may recognize birthdays in a grade appropriate fashion.
The classroom teacher is responsible for organizing food donations from interested volunteers to send in for celebrations. Any additional food that is sent in will be returned home. All parents will be notified in a timely manner that food will be served at a party giving parents of students with allergies ample time to send in an alternative item.
It is the school's policy to discourage the practice of distributing birthday or party invitations. There are several reasons for this position, many of which are legal in nature. The overriding issue is that too many children experience significant hurt when they are not invited to parties. School is definitely not a place where children should have to be subject to such embarrassment and or discomfort in front of peers. Invitations should be handled outside of school.