Student Handbook - Academic Performance / Programs
MEETINGHOUSE SCHOOL WESTMINSTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Student Placement Procedure
During May and June of each school year, the faculty, the Principal and Assistant Principal collaborate to organize students into classes for the next school year. Individual classes are balanced whenever possible by the ratio of boys to girls, overall range of performance, learning styles, special needs and various behavioral concerns and combinations. We do not honor special requests for teachers but will take your concerns into account.
Classroom teachers provide information gained by working closely with your student all year. The Special Subject Teachers, the Guidance Counselor and Special Education personnel also make recommendations.
Whenever possible, each student’s teacher assignment for the next year is included in the final report card. The role of parents/guardians in this process is important to your child’s transition to the next grade. The staff wants and respects your insights as they pertain to any new and additional information you can provide in this process.
In an ongoing effort to improve the quality of education at MHS & WES, the professional staff conducts trimester report cards in December, March and June.
The Westminster Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) sponsors Parents’ Night each September, when parents/guardians can meet their child’s teacher and discuss the teacher’s educational philosophy and plans for the school year.
Conferences are scheduled in November and March to review and discuss your student’s academic and social progress/goals and any related issues/concerns. Parents sign up for their preferred day and time at Parents Night and/or Open House.
Special subject teachers are also available for conferences at these times if you wish and are scheduled upon request by parents.
The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District has an integrated public preschool for children, ages 3-4 who require special education services, and those who do not. Community peers are a valued and integral part of our inclusive preschool program. Inclusion in preschool refers to including children with disabilities in early childhood programs together with their community peers without disabilities, holding high expectations and intentionally promoting participation in all learning and social activities facilitated by individualized accommodations and using evidence-based services and supports to foster child development in the areas of cognition, language, communication, physical, behavioral, and social-emotional, as well as fostering friendships with peers, and an overall sense of belonging. Instruction for all children is developmentally appropriate and aligned with the Massachusetts Guidelines for Preschool Early Learning Standards.
Each year, there are a limited number of tuition paying spots available for community peers. Please refer to the Inclusive Preschool Program Website for more information..
The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District is required by Massachusetts Chapter 766 State Law, to screen all children entering kindergarten. Screening includes an assessment of the child’s development in the areas of cognition, language, and motor skills. It is not used to determine readiness for kindergarten. Screening will be conducted during the first week of school. Families of children entering kindergarten will be provided with more specific information.
Each spring, the 5th graders at WES are offered the opportunity to attend a weeklong educational experience called "Nature's Classroom". The classroom location is Freedom, NH on Lake Ossipee. WES students attend Nature's Classroom with the 5th grade from Briggs School in Ashburnham. This is believed to be a good experience for students from both schools and attempts will be made yearly to continue this joint venture. Teachers, staff, and parent chaperones accompany students from WES. Students are given the opportunity to participate in a fundraiser to raise some or all of their tuition.
Details are sent home with each 5th grade student. Fundraising usually occurs during the fall and winter of the students’ 4th and 5th grade years.
CR 8 - Accessibility of extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activities sponsored by the district are nondiscriminatory in that:
The Ashburnham Westminster Regional School District prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy or pregnancy related conditions, homelessness, age, disability, military/veteran status, and any other class or characteristic protected by law.
Lunch Program – Chartwells Food Service
The Food Service Department provides lunch for a cost of $2.75 (subject to change) per meal. Parents are encouraged to prepay lunch by sending in the pre-payment amount for the total cost of the number of lunches they desire to pay. A record is kept of each child’s balance and purchases. Your child will be informed when your child’s pre-payments have been exhausted.
Parents can also pre-pay on myschoolbucks.com, although they will be charged a service fee for each prepayment transaction. Additionally you can see what your child buys for lunch even if you don’t pre-pay through the website. By using the pre-payment system, time collecting money is reduced, therefore allowing more eating time for your child. Parents are able to send in money daily if they choose.
Free/Reduced Lunch Forms are available through the school office. While the anonymity of families involved in the Free/Reduced Lunch program is insured, the school district does receive grant money depending upon the number of people involved. By participating in the program, you may be increasing the district’s chance of being eligible for various grants.
All questions about Food Service should be directed to the Food Service Director, Dennis Mueller at 978-827-5907 ext 2167.
Student Conduct and Discipline
Good citizenship in schools is based on respect and consideration for the rights of others. Students will be expected to conduct themselves in a way that the rights and privileges of others are not violated. They will be required to respect constituted authority, to conform to school rules and to those provisions of law that apply to their conduct.
While this section provides examples of conduct that is prohibited, not every type of prohibited conduct can be listed. Students are expected to recognize that any conduct that is inconsistent with maintaining an appropriate environment either at school or at a school-sponsored event could lead to discipline, including exclusion from school. Even misconduct that does not take place in school or at a school sponsored event can result in discipline if it is of a serious nature and has a direct relationship to the school or causes substantial disruption to the school environment.
School staff may use suspension from school not only as a deterrent to inappropriate behavior, but also to address the needs of students adversely affected by the inappropriate behavior of others. However, school staff seek to use alternatives to suspension whenever effective and appropriate to the circumstances. Except in the case of the “Statutory Offenses” as described in M.G.L. Ch. 71, §37H and 37H1/2 and set forth below, students may not be suspended more than 90 days in a school year, and school staff will avoid suspensions of more than 10 days until alternatives such as positive behavioral interventions and supports have been tried as appropriate.
Alternatives may include the use of evidence-based strategies and programs such as mediation, conflict resolution, restorative justice, and positive behavioral interventions and supports.
Any student who is suspended from school will be given the opportunity to make up school work as needed to make academic progress. If the student is excluded from school for more than ten (10) consecutive days the student will have an opportunity to receive education services in order to make academic progress through the school-wide education service plan.
If a student in preschool or in grades K through 3 is to be suspended out-of-school, the principal will provide written notice to the superintendent and explain the reasons for imposing an out-of-school suspension before the suspension takes effect.
The following are examples of behaviors that may lead to suspension:
- Physical and/or verbal assault on an adult or student (includes fighting).
- Verbal threats (verbal, written, electronic or otherwise) made to any student or staff
- Remarks, gestures or physical contact, the display or circulation of written materials or pictures derogatory to either gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation or to racial, ethnic, religious, age, ancestry or disability groups.
- Pulling a false fire alarm, starting a fire, or making a bomb threat.
- Possession of controlled substances (drugs), alcohol, cigarettes (including vapor devices).
- Possessing dangerous items (e.g., knives, guns, look-alike guns, weapons, explosives, matches, harmful chemical substances).
- Using or copying the academic work of another and presenting it as his/her own without proper attribution.
- Repeatedly and intentionally defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, or administrators.
- Malicious destruction of property or stealing, including school
School principals retain the authority to discipline students for any other misconduct not specifically listed above.
Section 37H of Ch. 71 of the Gen. Laws gives principals authority to expel any student who is found on school premises or at school-sponsored events in possession of a dangerous weapon or a controlled substance, or any student who assaults school personnel on school premises or at school-sponsored events. Expulsion is discretionary within the province of the principal. Students are also subject to long term suspension/expulsion by the Principal when charged/convicted of a felony based upon the standards and procedures set forth in M.G.L. c.71, §37H1/2. Offenses covered by these statutes are sometimes referred to as “Statutory Offenses.”
D isciplinary Procedures
The procedures that must be followed prior to suspending or expelling a student from school are outlined in Appendix A of this Handbook.
Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan
- causes physical or emotional harm to the target or damage to the target’s property;
- places the target in reasonable fear of harm to themself or of damage to their property;
- creates a hostile environment at school for the target;
- infringes on the rights of the target at school; or
- materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.
The complete Bullying and Intervention Plan can be found at Appendix I.
Any student who makes a credible threat toward a staff member will receive a minimum of a ten (10) day suspension on the first offense and parents and the police will be contacted. Subsequent offenses will result in more serious consequences that may result in exclusion or expulsion. A credible threat is defined as a statement in verbal, written, or electronic form that expresses the intent to harm another person and causes the recipient to fear for his or her safety. It is important to note that it is the victim’s perception of harm that defines the threat, not the intent of the person making the threat.
Discipline and Suspension of Students with Disabilities
In general, all students are expected to meet the requirements for behavior as set forth in the AWRSD student handbooks and the school’s code of conduct, unless otherwise determined by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process. All students receive prior written notice regarding the school’s code of conduct as described in the handbooks. Provisions and procedural protections of law for students with disabilities who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Accommodation Plan are outlined below.
Procedures For Suspension Not Exceeding Ten (10) School Days:
- Students with disabilities may be suspended for up to ten (10) days during a school year. Disciplinary decisions are the same as for students without disabilities.
Procedures For Suspension When Suspension Exceeds Ten (10) School Days:
- If a student with a disability is suspended for more than ten (10) school days in a school year, either cumulatively (for example, the student is suspended for three school days on four separate occasions) or all at once, this removal is considered a “change of placement”. A change of placement invokes certain procedural protections under federal special education law and Section 504.
- No later than the date of the start of any disciplinary action, the Principal must notify the parent or guardian of the decision and provide written notice of procedural safeguards.
- The Principal must also immediately notify the Director of Pupil Services of students with disabilities who are suspended for ten (10) or more days or who are nearing their tenth (10th) day with a school year. Notification must be in writing.
- Prior to any removal that constitutes a change in placement, the school will inform the parent or guardian that the law requires the school district to consider whether or not the behavior that formed the basis of the disciplinary action was caused by or had a direct relationship to the student’s disability or was a direct result of the school district’s failure to implement the IEP. This consideration is called a “manifestation determination”. Parents and guardians have a right to participate in this process along with school administrators and relevant team members. All relevant information in the student’s file will be considered including evaluation and diagnostic results, observational data, the student's IEP or Section 504 Plan, behavior intervention plans, information provided by the parent, guardian and student.
- At a manifestation determination meeting, the team will consider: Did the student’s disability cause or have a direct and substantial relationship to the conduct in question? Was the conduct a direct result of the school district’s failure to implement the IEP?
- If the manifestation determination decision is that the disciplinary action was related to the disability, then the student returns to school prior to the 11th day (unless under special circumstances or if the parent/guardian and district agree otherwise). The team will review and examine the patterns of behavior and discuss appropriate responses to support the student, including assessments and/or changes to the IEP as necessary. This may include but is not limited to completion of a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) if not already/previously recently completed and behavioral intervention plan and/or modification of an existing behavior plan to address the behavior so that it does not recur.
- If the manifestation determination decision is that the disciplinary action was not related to the disability, then the school may impose sanctions applicable to all students to suspend or
otherwise discipline the student according to the school’s code of conduct. During the period of time of removal from school that exceeds ten (10) school days, the school will provide educational services that will meet the student’s unique needs, allow them to make progress in the general curriculum and to continue to receive services identified in their IEP, including services to address the problem behavior(s).
Special Circumstances For Expulsion:
- Special circumstances exist if a student: possesses, uses, sells or solicits illegal drugs on school grounds or at a school-sponsored event; carries a weapon to school or a school-sponsored event; or inflicts serious bodily injury (i.e. substantial risk of death, extreme physical pain, protracted/obvious disfigurement and/or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ or mental faculty) upon another person at school, on school premises or a school-sponsored event/function. Under these circumstances, the school district may unilaterally remove a student with a disability to an Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES) for up to forty-five (45) school days.
- The district will ensure that while the student is placed in the Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES), the student will be provided educational services that will meet their unique needs, allow them to make progress in the general curriculum and to continue to receive services identified in their IEP, including services to address the problem behavior(s).
- At the conclusion of the forty-five (45) school days, the student will return to the previously agreed upon placement unless the parent or guardian (or student if over age 18) consents to an extension of the Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES) or an order is obtained authorizing the student’s continued removal.
Hearing Officer Authority:
- If a special circumstance as noted above does not exist but the student is a danger and substantially likely to injure themselves or others, the school district may remove the student to an Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES) by obtaining authorization from a court a Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) Hearing Officer or with parent or guardian consent.
State Regulated Discipline (Chapter 766)
All students are expected to meet the requirements as set forth in this handbook. The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) developed for every identified special needs student will indicate whether the student can be expected to meet the regular discipline code or if the student’s handicapping condition requires modifications. Any modifications will be identified in the IEP. The suspension/expulsion of special needs students will be handled in accordance with Section 338.0 of the regulations for Chapter 766.
In the event that after-school detention is determined to be an appropriate consequence for a behavioral situation, parents will be given 24 hours notice so that they may make transportation arrangements for their child.