New Family FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions from Incoming K-5 Families at Thoreau School

Published by the Thoreau School Parent Teacher Group

revised September 2021

School Questions

Q: How is the school dealing with the coronavirus pandemic?

A: Please read the 2021 COVID Protocols and the Thoreau Opening Information for detailed information about all the protocols Thoreau will be following to provide a safe, welcoming environment at school this year!

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

A:  A current bus schedule is maintained on the school district website at http://www.concordps.org. Once on the website, open the “Administration” pull-down menu at the top of the page, find the “Transportation” section and click on “School Bus Routes.”

It is a good idea to check the school bus routes weekly during September, as the routes and times may change slightly as they iron out any issues. *Note that it is not uncommon for buses to run up to 20-30 minutes late during the first couple weeks of school. You can always call the transportation office to check in if you get concerned about the lateness of a bus – 978-461-3981. By the third week of school, bus schedules generally have become consistent and will remain that way throughout the rest of the year.

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 transportation@concordps.org.

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 if a parent/guardian has provided an email to the transportation office authorizing the child to get off the bus alone.

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:  Many teachers and staff greet the arriving buses in the morning and are on hand to safely guide students to their appropriate classrooms.

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.  

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). 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: There are designated sections for each grade on the bus, and in some cases, designated seats.

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. Occasionally students will have a one bus driver assigned to their morning route, and a different bus driver assigned to the afternoon route.

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. Due to COVID protocols, windows on the bus remain open at all times unless severe inclement weather prohibits it.
  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 skateboards, 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 http://thoreau.concordps.org.  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, due to COVID-19, parents are not allowed in the school building at any time.

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 says otherwise.

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

In the afternoons, teachers in all grades escort children being picked up to the soccer field on the upper playground. In the case of inclement weather, pick up is in the tent on the lower playground. If you plan to pick up your child regularly, please inform their teacher of this. 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 http://thoreau.concordps.org by choosing “Information, Forms and Handbooks” from the “Parents” pull-down menu.

Q: If I have to change my child’s pick-up plan for a day or permanently (from car to walking or vice-versa), how do I communicate this change to the school? 

A: Send in a note with your child that explains the change. If you have to make the change during the school day, email your child’s teacher, but also call the Thoreau office at 978-318-1300 because teachers do not always have the opportunity to check email during the day.

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

A:  This year, lunch will be eaten outside in a tent whenever possible. 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. Due to allergy concerns, there are separate nut-free tables. If your child has nut ingredients in their lunch, they will need to sit at a non-labeled table.

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

A:  This year, school lunches are being provided for free to all students. Families must register on the NutriSlice website and pre-order all lunches. Menus are posted on NutriSlice and can be ordered a month in advance. 

More information about the school lunch program can be found on the district website at http://www.concordps.org.  At the site, open the “Administration” pull-down menu at the top of the page, find the “Food and Nutrition Services” section. In this section you can find links to other helpful school meal information.

Q:  Where can I find my child’s NutriSlice Account number?

A:  When you set up your NutriSlice account, it will ask you for your child’s Nutrislice ID# – this can be found on Aspen if you click on the “family” tab, then select your student, then click on the “demographics” tab. There will be a Student ID number listed, and a Lunch Key Pad Number. The Lunch Key Pad Number is the one you want to use for Nutrislice.

Q:  Can my child order more than one lunch?

A: Yes, you can order more than one lunch. For 2021-2022, the first meal is free, but you will be charged for any additional lunches ordered on a particular day. The food services program uses “My School Bucks” as their primary way for charging families for these second meals or other incidentals (for example, if your child brought their lunch but wanted to buy a milk). Follow the instructions for how to set up your MySchoolBucks account here.

Q: Can my child order a lunch to take home on half day Wednesdays?

A: Yes! If your child orders lunch on a Wednesday, they can pick it up before they leave for the day.

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

A:  School supply lists can be found in the Aspen Student Information System. You can purchase supplies yourself and have your child bring the supplies to school on the first day. Alternatively, the PTG contracts with 1st Day School Supplies; if you order supplies through 1st Day, they are delivered directly to Thoreau over the summer and given to your student during the first few days of school.

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.

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. If your child does not have an envelope or folder for this purpose, ask their teacher how they prefer communications are passed back and forth.

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

A:  Thoreau schedules a Back-to-School Night event in September during which your child’s teacher will give a detailed presentation about the curriculum and what goes on during a normal day at school. This year, Back-to-School Night will be held virtually. More information is forthcoming from Principal Charles. 

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 http://www.concordps.org and choose “Curriculum” from the top navigation bar.  Choose the grade level and topic that interests you from the Curriculum Mapping list.

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

A:  The Thoreau School website at http://thoreau.concordps.org includes a set of pages for each classroom (under the “Academics” pull-down menu) where parents can read about what’s happening in school.  Some 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.

The Thoreau Parent Teacher Group (PTG) maintains a helpful website at www.thoreauptg.org where you can learn about PTG-sponsored activities and events.

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 www.thoreauptg.org, 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.

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 in Aspen). 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:  You can pre-order the 2021-2022 directory online through the PTG website. A copy of the directory will then be sent home with your child after it is printed!

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 online meeting where we 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 https://www.thoreauptg.org, 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.” This page will be updated as we confirm which events will take place this year.

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 autumn 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 or edit your child’s Demographics form on Aspen to do so.

Q:  Who 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 acharles@concordps.org.

Community Questions

Q: We’re new to town and it’s COVID! What’s open? Where can we go to play?

A: The Concord Dept of Natural Resources has some great maps of local hiking trails.

There are three major public playgrounds in town – Rideout Playground, Emerson Playground, and the Ripley Playscape behind the Ripley Building. Note that Emerson Playground is undergoing construction during the fall of 2021. Also, the Ripley Playscape is only open to the public during non-school hours. Cousin’s Field, near Thoreau, is also used often for sports practices and other gatherings. Maps to each can be found here.

The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail is currently under construction between Concord and Acton, but can be accessed from the center of West Concord. You can also pick up the trail by parking in nearby Acton and utilizing the Acton-Chelmsford section of the trail.

Other places to explore:

Q: Where do people go for lessons outside of school? Sports, music, etc?

A: Here are a few of the local organizations offering youth activities outside of school hours. (Note that we’re not endorsing any of these organizations; these are just some organizations Thoreau families have enjoyed in the past!)

If you would like to submit a correction, comment or additional question/answer to help next year’s new families, please contact Erin Fife, New Family Support Coordinator, at ejfife@gmail.com.  Thank you!

Revision 9/2/2021