New Family FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions from Incoming K-5 Families at Thoreau School
Published by the Thoreau School Parent Teacher Group
revised August 2019

Q:  How do I know what time the bus is going to come and where it will stop?

A:  Bus routes and schedules are first published in mid- to late August and are updated several times through the first week or two of school. A current schedule is maintained at the school district website at At the website, open the “Administration” pull-down menu at the top of the page, find the “Transportation” section and click on “School Bus Routes.”

The drop-off times on early release days (every Tuesday and occasional holidays) are three hours earlier than the posted times. Check the “School Hours” section on the last page of the Concord Public Schools calendar on the school district website to find out which days are early release days (open the “Resources” pull-down menu and choose “School Calendars”).

The transportation office recommends that you be at the curb 5 minutes before your published pickup/drop-off time. If you have any questions regarding your child’s bus schedules, please contact the transportation office by phone at 978-461-3981 or via email at

Q: Do I need to be at the bus stop with my child?

A:  An authorized adult must be present with the children at the stop in the morning. In the afternoon, an authorized adult or older sibling must be present at the stop to receive students in grades K-5. An exception can be made for a 4th or 5th grade student if a parent/guardian has provided an email to the transportation office authorizing the child to get off the bus alone. Written authorizations provided for 4th grade students will be carried over and honored for their 5th grade year as well. No exceptions are allowed for grades K-3.

If on any day you will be unable to meet your child at the bus stop, please make arrangements to have a listed emergency contact person meet the bus or pick up your child at school. Please advise the school of the plan. Children will only be released to parents/caregivers indicated on the school emergency contact list, or to an alternate designated for a specific day with notification from a parent or guardian. All buses are equipped with two-way radios for safety, so drivers and the transportation office can communicate with each other if there are any questions or issues.

Q:  Am I allowed on the bus?

A: No, parents are not allowed on the bus.

Q:  How will my child find their way to the classroom when they get off the bus at school?

A:  For the first two weeks of school, all kindergarteners will be escorted from their bus to their classroom by school specialists to ensure that everyone arrives safely.  Name badges are mailed to incoming kindergarteners in late August to help the specialists identify them among the older students.  Please make sure your child wears his or her name badge as they board the bus for the first few weeks of school.  Their teacher will collect the badges when they are no longer needed for the bus and will keep them for future uses such as field trips, etc.

Returning students in grades 1-5 are typically familiar enough with the school buildings to find their way to their classrooms, so an escort is not provided and name badges are usually not sent.  However, new grade 1-5 students and any other children who are not confident are welcome to ask one of the many adults who are greeting each arriving bus for directions and/or assistance.

An open house event will be held at the school shortly before the start of the year.  This is the perfect time for you and your child to review and practice their walk from the school entrance to their classroom.

Q:  How will my child find their way to the correct bus after school?

A:  A teacher brings each student to their bus in the afternoon for the entire school year.  Prior to the start of the year, teachers are given the bus and route numbers for each neighborhood and after-school care facility, plus a list of student names assigned to each route so that they can make sure every child boards the correct bus.  Please confirm your child’s route number with their teacher at the Thoreau open house event held before the first day of school.

Q:  How do I know my child won’t be let off the bus at the wrong stop on the way home?

A:  A child will not be left at a bus stop without their parent or caregiver present (unless you have authorized in writing an exception for a 4th or 5th grader). If no parent is at the stop, the child will remain on the bus and the transportation department will attempt to contact their parents by telephone. If there is no answer, the child will be returned to Thoreau School or to the Concord police if no staff are available at school. The child’s emergency contacts on file will be called and asked to pick them up.

Q: Where will my child sit on the bus?

A: The bus driver designates a set of rows in the bus for each grade. All kindergarteners sit near the driver at the front of the bus. Grades 1-5 are assigned rows in numeric order, from grade 1 just behind the kindergarteners to grade 5 at the back of the bus.

Q: Will my child have the same bus driver every day?

A: Not necessarily. Although each route will have a regular driver, a substitute will occasionally be assigned in the absence of the regular driver.

Q: Are there any special rules my child and I should know about riding the bus?

A:  Yes, there are ten basic rules for proper conduct when riding the bus.  They are:

  1. Each pupil shall be seated immediately upon entering the bus.  Pupils are not to stand or move from place to place while the bus is in motion.
  2. Windows and doors are to be opened or closed only with the permission of the bus driver. If allowed, windows should only be opened to the indicated safety line.
  3. Classroom conduct should be observed on the bus at all times. Indecent conduct or loud, disruptive or profane language will not be permitted.  If unacceptable conduct issues occur, a transportation behavior report will be sent to the principal.
  4. Passengers are not to behave in any manner which infringes upon the rights of any other passenger. This would include any form or type of inappropriate behavior.
  5. No pupil is to enter or leave the bus until it has come to a complete stop. Students may enter or leave the bus only upon bus driver signal.
  6. Students are not to throw objects of any kind on the school bus or out the windows. All parts of the student’s body shall remain inside the bus at all times.
  7. Absolutely no tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs will be allowed on the bus. No food or beverages may be consumed on board.
  8. Bus switches to accommodate after-school events, playdates or exceptions to normal childcare arrangements are not allowed, other than recurring switches documented in the Transportation Department’s bus assignments. However, students may get off their normal bus at a different stop or be met by a different caregiver with written permission in advance from their parent or guardian.
  9. Students will not be permitted to bring such items as skate boards, radios, jam boxes, balloons, or glass objects onto the bus. Any other object deemed to be unsafe cargo on the bus will be denied.  The driver will have authority to deny transportation to a student with such articles in his/her possession.  The driver and/or school corporation bears no responsibility for lost, stolen or damaged items brought onto the bus.
  10. The privilege of riding the school bus may be denied to any student who does not conduct himself/herself in a safe and orderly fashion. School bus drivers and administration will determine what is safe and orderly.  The bus driver reserves the right to assign seating for any student(s) that is (are) disruptive in any way.

Additional policies and how-to tips regarding transportation are published in the Parent and Student Elementary School Handbook.  A soft copy of the handbook is available on the Thoreau School’s web site at  To find it, open the “Parents” pull-down menu in the top navigation bar and select “Information, Forms and Handbooks.”

Q:  Can I escort my child to the classroom myself for the first few days until they get used to school?

A:  No, parents are not allowed to escort their children into the classroom, as it makes for a more difficult transition for all.

Q:  I plan to drive my child to and from school.  Where and how do I drop them off and pick them up?

A:  The drop-off area is on the corner of West and Prairie Streets. During morning drop-off time, parents and other caregivers are to stay at the corner to avoid crowds obstructing the building entrance. For the first few weeks of the school year, a specialist will escort kindergarteners being dropped off from this area to their classrooms. Grade 1-5 students who need directions or assistance can ask one of the many adults who are supervising student arrivals. As with children riding the bus, if you have a kindergartener and a name badge was mailed to you please ensure that they wear it every day at drop-off until the teacher collects the badges.

Students should be dropped off in time to be in their classrooms by the start of school at 9am, but they may enter the building no earlier than 8:50am.

In the afternoons, teachers in all grades escort children being picked up to the basketball courts behind the school and hand them off there to a waiting parent/caregiver throughout the school year.  During inclement weather, afternoon pickup will be in the cafeteria. If you plan to pick up your child regularly, please inform their teacher of this at the open house event just prior to the start of school. Unless instructed otherwise, teachers will put all students on their assigned buses at dismissal time.

If your child normally rides the bus home but you want to pick them up on a single day, please send in a note advising the teacher of this and meet your child at the pickup area. If you are picking them up earlier than the standard dismissal time, meet your child in the administration office (or in the health office if the early pickup is due to an emerging illness).

There are a few parking spaces in the school driveway designated for student pickup/drop-off. If these are full, please use street parking. The two parking lots near the front door and the cafeteria are for staff only all day. A street parking map can be found on the Thoreau website at by choosing “Information, Forms and Handbooks” from the “Parents” pull-down menu.

Q:  I have heard that we have to label snacks with ingredient lists so that the teachers can verify that the snacks are nut-free before they are allowed into the classroom.  What’s a good way to do this?

A:  The preferred labeling methods vary from classroom to classroom.  Please check with your child’s teacher to learn what’s best for your class.

Q:  I want to send lunch in with my child.  Is there anything special I need to know?

A:  Due to allergy issues in most classrooms it is important to pack your child’s lunch in a separate bag from their snack.  This is because snacks are eaten in the classroom and therefore must be nut-free, while lunch is eaten in the cafeteria and can contain nuts (separate nut-free tables are available in the cafeteria).  Even if your child’s lunch is nut-free, packing it with their snack will require that you label their lunch with ingredient lists and that the teacher check their lunch for allergens as well as their snack.  This causes extra work for everyone.

Don’t pack too many items in your child’s lunch because the lunch period is only 20 minutes long.  Although that may sound too short, teachers report that most children are able to finish eating in this time.  Keeping lunches simple will help to keep this on track.

Q:  Where can I find out what’s being served for school lunch?

A:  School lunch menus are published monthly on the district website at  At the site, open the “Administration” pull-down menu at the top of the page, find the “Food and Nutrition Services” section and choose “School Menus.”  In this section you can also find links to other helpful school meal information, including payment options for school meals, an application for free and reduced meals and further parent resources on school nutrition.

Q:  I want my child to buy lunch today but I don’t think they will like the hot lunch shown on today’s menu.  What other food-for-purchase options do they have?

A:  In addition to the hot entree option published on the school lunch menu, the cafeteria offers soup every day (usually tomato or homemade chicken noodle) and sandwiches (usually peanut butter, peanut butter and jelly, turkey and grilled cheese).  A yogurt/cheese alternate lunch is also available.  There is also a salad bar in the food service area where your child can add vegetables and fresh fruit to their tray.  Canned fruit is also available.  All of these things and a carton of milk are included in the price of a purchased lunch, which is $3.85 for the 2019-2020 school year but may be subject to change.

Q:  How do I fund my child’s school lunch account?

A:  The food service department recommends maintaining a positive balance of $50 in each student’s lunch account at the beginning of every month.  If you plan to have your child buy lunch or milk, please fund their account by either check or credit card before their first purchase.

Checks should be made out to “Food Service Department” and either dropped off at the Thoreau School office or mailed to the Food Service Department at 120 Meriam Road, Concord, MA 01742.  Write “Thoreau” and the student’s first and last name in the memo line on the check so that it can be credited to the correct account.  Allow 3-5 business days for the funds to become available in your child’s account if sent by mail.  If you need the account to be credited sooner, drop the check off at the Thoreau School office or have your child bring a check or cash to the Thoreau cafeteria register at lunch time.  A food services staff member will also be available in the cafeteria to accept payments by check or cash during the open house shortly before the start of the school year.

You may also fund the account with a credit card via the MySchoolBucks website at  Lunch accounts for new students registered prior to the start of school will be accessible via the MySchoolBucks system by early September.  Payments made online will be credited to the student’s lunch account within 1-2 business days.  A small fee applies to credit card payments.

Q:  I want my child to buy lunch but I don’t know what to tell them to expect.  How does that work?

A:  One of the first things your child will need to do upon arrival at school each day is declare whether they brought lunch, are buying a hot lunch or are buying an alternate lunch (soup, sandwich or yogurt).  Their teacher then submits the lunch count for the day to the cafeteria.  It is recommended to check the school lunch menu on each day that your child will be buying lunch and discuss the options with them before school.  The teachers also have the menu available in the classroom and can advise the kids of what the hot lunch offering is when taking lunch counts.

When lunch time comes, each teacher in all grades escorts their students to the cafeteria.

For kindergarteners, the assistant teacher leads the children who brought lunch to tables pre-selected for their class while the head teacher leads those who are buying lunch and/or milk through the food service line.  The head teacher assists with payment at the cash register, shows the kindergarteners their options as they make their food choices and helps them carry their tray if necessary.  The assistant teacher then stays with the class throughout the lunch period to offer assistance and guidance as needed.

For Grades 1-5, students who brought lunch go directly to any table of their choice while those who are buying lunch and/or milk go through the food service line independently.

For all grades, the payment process at the cash register is quick and simple.

For kindergarteners, the teacher finds the student’s lunch account card in a stack at the register.  The child hands the card to the cashier so that the correct account can be debited.  Partway through the year, the teacher begins to prompt the children to type the access number from the card into the keypad at the register instead of giving the card to the cashier.  This prepares them for independent checkout by the time they reach first grade.

Students in grades 1-5 type their own number onto the register’s keypad and verify that the correct name is displayed on the register.  If needed, a child may reference their lunch account card at the register to remind them of their number so that the correct account can be debited.

The entire lunch purchase process moves quickly enough that students who are buying lunch are typically seated with their food within five minutes.  Lines are not long because the lunch periods are staggered such that only one or two grades are in the cafeteria at any time.  Each lunch period lasts 20 minutes.

Q:  When I think back to the quality of my own school lunches when I was in elementary school, I wouldn’t want my child eating that same stuff.  What is the school food like at Thoreau?

A:  Many of us still remember school fare that was heavily salted and made primarily with processed meats and canned fruits and vegetables.  If this was your experience, you will find the nutritional quality of today’s school lunch at Thoreau to be better than what you had as a child.

The salad bar in the food service area offers a variety of fresh vegetables every day from which students can choose items to add to their ray. On most days, fresh fruit is also available on the salad bar.

Another improvement over our own school days has been a significant reduction of added sugar and sweets in school lunches.  Although dessert is still offered, it is now typically fresh fruit or low-sugar mixed fruit.  Occasionally a sweeter option is offered such as a small serving of cake or pudding, but most of the time this part of the meal is of the no-sugar-added or low-sugar variety.

Q:  Will I be getting a shopping list for school supplies soon?

A:  School supply lists can be found in the AspenTM Student Information System and on the Thoreau School website at At the website, open the “Parents” pull-down menu and choose “Information, Forms and Handbooks” to find the elementary school supply lists for each grade. In addition to this, the Thoreau Parent Teacher Group (PTG) kindly maintains a fund for teachers to use to procure special items not covered by parents or the school budget.

Most teachers will specify any other needed items in their welcome letters near the end of August. Those lists typically include a backpack, a change of clothes to keep in the student’s locker and an optional water bottle.  Kindergarteners will also need to bring in a blanket or towel to lie on during quiet time and sometimes a smock or overshirt for messy art projects.

Q:  How do I send in notes for the teacher, permission slips, etc?  Do I rely on my child to hand them in?

A:  Some teachers put reusable communication envelopes or folders in the children’s backpacks to send papers back and forth with parents.  A teacher or assistant teacher will check this envelope or folder each day for any notes from you.  Some classrooms do not use these and they typically do not go through the kids’ backpacks looking for notes and slips, either.  They do, however, have to go through each snack bag looking for allergens.  So if there is no communication envelope or folder in use, the best way to make sure a teacher finds your note is to put it in with your child’s snack.

Q:  Where can I learn more about what my child will be doing/learning at school?

A:  Your child’s teacher will give a detailed presentation at the Back-to-School Night event in mid-September about what your child’s day is like.  Some teachers also have a typical day’s activities as well as regular reports on actual events listed on their teacher page at the Thoreau School web site.

For a detailed look at the entire year’s learning goals, please explore the curriculum map that is available online.  To find it, visit the school district web site at and choose “Curriculum” from the top navigation bar.  Choose the grade level and topic that interests you from the Curriculum Mapping list.

Q:  What other communications can I expect from Thoreau before school starts?

A:  In a typical summer incoming families receive:

  • in July, a letter from the Concord Public Schools information technology department explaining how to access the Aspen Student Information System – a web portal for families to view their child’s classroom assignment, progress reports (in February and June) and other information
  • in late July, electronic letters from the principal, posted to the Aspen Student Information System with classroom assignments
  • in late July or early August, an email from the principal with links to on-line school supply lists and an invitation to a classroom open house to take place shortly before school starts
  • in August, a welcome letter from your child’s teacher with details specific to their classroom and a short list of any additional things each student needs to bring with them to school
  • a notification from the school nurse if your child’s health records are incomplete
  • a letter from the school nurse with allergy-related snack requirements for your child’s classroom

Q:  What are my on-line resources for information about the Thoreau School and my child’s classroom?

A:  The Thoreau School website at includes a set of pages for each classroom (under the “Academics” pull-down menu) where parents can read about what’s happening in school.  Many teachers maintain newsletters on their classroom’s page for up-to-date reporting.  Click on your child’s teacher’s name to view their page.  Your classroom’s room parent may also maintain a blog for parents/caregivers with additional information such as classroom volunteering opportunities.

The Thoreau Parent Teacher Group (PTG) maintains a helpful website at where you can learn about the many activities and events happening outside the classroom. It also has a Facebook page that can be found at by searching on “Thoreau Elementary School PTG”.

The PTG also publishes a weekly e-newsletter called Thoreau PTG Announcements. Delivered via email and posted to the group website on Thursdays, this newsletter will give you notifications on many things happening around the school such as student picture day, social events and special dress-up days. It also includes listings of community events of interest to families with school-aged children. To subscribe to the email version, visit the PTG website at, enter your email address in the field entitled “Get the PTG Newsletter” and click on “Subscribe.” Announcements are published routinely during the school year (excluding vacation weeks), with an occasional post during the summer.

Another good source of information is the Parent and Student Elementary School Handbook, which is available at the Thoreau School web site at by opening the “Parents” pull-down menu in the top navigation bar and choosing “Information, Forms and Handbooks.” This handbook details policies and procedures on a wide variety of topics ranging from proper footwear to how to pick up your child early from school.

Q:  What printed sources of information should I seek out?

A:  A very useful document is the Thoreau School Directory.  Published by the PTG, the directory provides student listings by classroom with parent/guardian contact information for those who opt to be included (permission to include your contact information is given by checking a box on your child’s school registration form).  The directory also includes the Concord Public Schools calendar, the PTG event calendar and contact information for all Thoreau teachers and other staff members.  The directory is a helpful resource for connecting with the Thoreau families in your neighborhood and communicating with other parents you’ll meet at school events.

Q:  Where can I purchase the school directory?

A:  The Thoreau School Directory can be ordered on-line, by mail or by sending an order form to school with your child.  Pre-ordered copies can be picked up (and additional copies can be purchased) at the Back-to-School Night event in September.  On-line orders can be placed on the PTG website by opening the “Support Thoreau” pull-down menu and choosing “School Directory.”  Additional ordering information will be included in the electronic information packet published for the classroom open house just prior to the start of school.

Q:  I would like to meet people in the Thoreau community by volunteering with the Parent Teacher Group.  How do I get involved?

A:  The PTG hosts a monthly gathering and meeting where we can discuss the many ways families can participate in Thoreau community activities. All parents/guardians are encouraged to attend. The Thoreau Parent Teacher Group is a volunteer-run organization, so any help you can offer is much appreciated. Details on each meeting will be published via our website and in the Thoreau PTG Announcements weekly e-newsletter. To receive the e-newsletter, please subscribe by visiting the PTG website at, entering your email address in the field entitled “Get the PTG Newsletter” and clicking on “Subscribe.”

A list of current volunteer opportunities is also available at the PTG website under “Volunteer.”

Q:  I saw a checkbox on my child’s school registration form asking me to give permission for the PTG to use my contact information.  How will my details be used if I give this permission?

A: The PTG respects the privacy of its members and does not share or sell any contact information to other organizations. If you checked the opt-in box on your child’s registration form, your information will be included in the next edition of the Thoreau School Directory, which is published in print each September for use by the Thoreau community. To protect your contact details by discouraging wider distribution, the directory is not posted to any public web page and is not distributed electronically.

For those who subscribe, the PTG will also use your provided email addresses to send you a weekly e-newsletter called Thoreau PTG Announcements. If you do not wish to continue receiving this, you can unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of any edition. See the question about on-line resources earlier in this document for more information about this newsletter and how to subscribe.

Additionally, other PTG members may use the information published in the directory in various ways.  Other parents may wish to contact you socially.  Your child’s classroom “room parents” may use your email address to distribute classroom-specific communication.  The chairperson of a PTG committee may want to coordinate with you if you have raised your hand to volunteer.  The New Family Support Coordinator will reach out to families new to Thoreau to provide assistance with transitioning into our school and community.

All of these actions are intended to help you to be better informed and integrated at Thoreau School.  If you did not give your permission on your child’s registration form for the PTG to access your contact information, we encourage you to contact the Thoreau School administration office to do so.

Q:  Whom can I ask if I have other important questions?

A:  Feel free to direct any further questions to your child’s teacher, your classroom’s room parents, the new family support coordinator (contact info below) or to Principal Angel Charles at or (978) 341-2490, extension 3110.


If you would like to submit a correction, comment or additional question/answer to help next year’s new families, please contact Kimber Lynn Drake, New Family Support Coordinator, at or at (978) 831-3058.  Thank you!

Revision 8/23/2019