Before I jump into the information sharing...just wanted to share three pictures that demonstrate to me why it is so important for us to keep our schools open for face to face instruction in Gorham! I realize students pictured below are wearing masks...but I think we all know what is underneath those masks! GREAT BIG SMILES!
Friday, January 15, 2021
Friday, January 8, 2021
We hope you all had a great holiday break! Week #17 of face to face instruction is now in the books! We were so glad to see our students back to school this week after the break! Their laughter, their questions, their energy is what feeds our souls as educators! Here's a few pictures showcasing some of that passion and energy for learning in our schools this past week!
Friday, December 18, 2020
We have made it through week #15 of in person instruction via our hybrid model in Gorham! Two days next week and then a well-deserved break for everyone! I continue to be so impressed with how well our students, staff, and parents have met the challenges COVID 19 has placed upon us all - head on, with a strong sense of resilience and Gorham Pride! I encourage everyone to take some time during the coming Holiday break to"turn off" and "recharge"...we'll need that continued energy when we return to school on Jan. 4, 2021. Hopefully 2021 will treat us better than 2020 has!
This will be my last blog post until after the break (Jan. 8, 2020). Let's get to it!
CUMBERLAND COUNTY MOVING TO YELLOW DESIGNATION TODAY
We just received word earlier this afternoon that Cumberland County will be, for the first time, moving to a yellow designation as a county beginning today, December 18, 2020. This is due to the fact that Cumberland County experienced an increase in its new case rate and positivity rate, and 11 new outbreaks were opened in the county in the last week. Although our schools remain safe places to be (still 0 transmissions in our schools), it is increasingly clear that COVID is very much present in our communities.
So what does this change in county level designation mean for our schools? Academically, not much. We will continue to operate our schools under our hybrid model of learning as we have been for the past 15 weeks. The bigger impact is not on our regular school learning activities, the bigger impact is on our student athletes. Our Athletic Director Tim Spear has either already sent a message out to families, or he will be later today but the bottom line is that if the county is in yellow - all practices cease. This is truly unfortunate for our students who so very much look forward to the limited activities we have been able to offer them so far this winter. It is my hope that everyone in Cumberland County can band together for our students and double and triple down on following all safety protocols so we can deliver a good old fashioned kick in the pants to this virus and get our student athletes back in the gyms doing the things they love, where they belong!
The county level designations can be viewed by CLICKING HERE. They will be updated again on Dec. 31. If you have any questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or myself at email@example.com.
ANOTHER HOLIDAY WITH COVID...REMINDER ON SOME RULES AND A FEW THOUGHTS ON HOW TO CELEBRATE SAFELY
As we get ready to launch into another Holiday break within a Pandemic, I thought it would be important to once again remind folks of some of the rules and expectations for travel over the Holidays as well as what to do if your child experiences symptoms or tests positive for COVID over the break. Our School nurses have put together a quick reference guide to answer these questions, so please CLICK HERE to view.
As I stated before and will say again, it is not up to me or anyone else to judge a family for how they choose to celebrate the holidays together. Each family must balance its own needs and unique circumstances to make decisions based upon what they know to be right for them. What I can do is encourage folks to please celebrate the Holidays as safely as possible. I do this for the most selfish of reasons - I want to see everyone able to return back to school on Monday Jan. 4, 2021! Below I have included some links to resources I hope you find helpful to inform your decision making.
Once again, I would be remiss if I didn't say it...please continue to follow the 3 top safety measures that work anywhere you are! (1) Wear your face coverings, (2)wash/sanitize those hands frequently and (3) Keep your six! The Gorham Schools wish you all the happiest and safest of Holidays!
You may reach out to the technology staff assigned to your school (listed above), or email Tech Support <firstname.lastname@example.org> or call the tech support line: 207-222-1188
* Elementary School,
please email your teacher, and:
Joanne Gauley <email@example.com> or email Tech Support <firstname.lastname@example.org> or call the tech support line: 207-222-1188
And if that doesn't work, and you are still unable to resolve your issue or get an answer to your question, please contact the technology director, Dennis Crowe <email@example.com>
THOUGHT EXCHANGE - FINAL REMINDER TO PARTICIPATE!
WE NEED YOUR VOICE TO INFORM THE FUTURE OF CTE IN CUMBERLAND COUNTY
CTE or Career and Technical Education is an important part of our educational systems across Cumberland County and specifically in Gorham. We currently have 74 Gorham Rams attending either Westbrook Regional Vocational Center (WRVC) or Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS). These two fine institutions have embarked upon a visioning process to set a new vision for the future of CTE education in our county and they are seeking your voice as parents. All parents of any age level are invited to attend public forum on this topic via Portland Schools' "Parent University" on Monday, Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m. Zoom link is below.
ENDING WITH SOME PICTURES
I just wanted to end this week's blog post before the Holiday break sharing some images of what I am most grateful for this Holiday season - OUR INCREDIBLE STUDENTS AND STAFF! HAPPY HOLIDAYS! GO RAMS!
Friday, December 11, 2020
Week #14 in the books! A few more COVID related "hiccups" for sure - but we're still here - supporting our students and families! We aren't going anywhere! GO RAMS!
Lots to talk about this week...so I'll get right to it!
SOME ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A SCHOOL PLACED ON "OUTBREAK" STATUS BY MAINE CDC.
First, I want to be clear that we care deeply about our students, staff, and families and take every single case of COVID 19 in our schools seriously. It is important to know that overall, being placed on "outbreak" status by the Maine CDC isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there are a lot of good things that come along with it. A school in the state of Maine is given "outbreak" status if 3 or more cases are identified over a 14 day period that are epidemiologically linked. This link can occur inside the school or outside the school. In the case of Gorham High School's recent "outbreak" designation - the epidemiological link is outside of the school.
When outbreak status is given, schools are assigned a case management team from the Maine CDC. This team is an independent group that reviews all of the cases that have happened to date within a school. This independent group pays particular attention to whether or not there are any connections between cases within the school or in the community. They provide another set of "expert eyes" to help us monitor our data and ensure our schools remain the safe places they are even as cases may continue to increase in our community.
The group helps provide epidemiological resources to the school we otherwise would not have. They can recommend a school or segment of the school move to remote learning for a period of deeper cleaning. They can provide assistance in monitoring data for trends we may not be as well trained to see. They can also recommend additional COVID testing for students and/or staff, although at this time the CDC recognizes the abundance of testing sites available in our community and the fact that our families are already doing a great job of testing when it is suggested by our school nurses. Therefore the CDC is not recommending additional testing at this time. In addition to this kind of case review, the management team also works with schools to determine whether or not any additional services are needed. Outbreak investigations are closed after a school goes through a period of 28 days without logging a new case.
Just yesterday Principal Jandreau, our GHS school nurses, Assistant Superintendent Record and myself met with our case management team from Maine CDC for the first time to review all of the cases that have happened to date. At this time, our plan to re-open GHS to in person learning within our hybrid model on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 stand with the full support of our team. As we work to re-open the school on Monday, our team will continue to monitor data and if any concerns arise, we will take the necessary steps to address those concerns and inform the community.
It is also important to note that schools who are designated as being in outbreak status are reported on the MDOE site which is updated each Thursday. Beginning this coming Thursday Gorham High School will be publicly listed on this site. You can view the site by CLICKING HERE. Additionally, Dr. Shah is known to report new outbreaks during his weekly Friday public addresses. He may very well mention Gorham High School in his address today. Folks should not feel a sense of shame from this designation, and instead treat this as the "gift" that it is in terms of additional resources being provided to our community. The CDC's goal, the Maine Department of Education's goal, and the goal of the Gorham School Department are all the same - do whatever it takes to keep our children safe, our staff safe, our communities safe, and our schools safely open.
WE CONTINUE TO NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP OUR SCHOOLS OPEN
Over the past 14 weeks, we have had 21 cases of COVID 19 associated with our schools. This means we have seen 21 opportunities for COVID 19 to spread in our schools and it has NOT. This data tells me that our schools are safe places. But in order to keep these safe places open to face to face learning in our hybrid model, we really need your help in areas outside of the school. When I say "your" I mean, students, staff, parents and community members. Schools have demonstrated they are safe places with our safety protocols in place, however we cannot remain open unless our community is also a safe place. As we have seen, just one case from the community that requires us to designate staff members as close contacts can close a school for at least a period of 10 days and force a school to go to remote learning. A positive case that requires us to designate bus drivers as close contacts required to quarantine for 10 days can shut the entire district down. None of us wants this. The next question is - what can we do that isn't already being done to help? Luckily, there are answers to that question!
First, double down on the "big three":
1. Wear face coverings.
2. Keep your six and not just indoors, outdoors too.
3. Wash/Sanitize those hands frequently.
Second, think about the following a little more closely:
1. Is going to that in person gathering with friends really necessary?
2. Can you work to create other ways to "cohort" outside of school? In other words - limit interactions with others outside your immediate family as much as is possible, and if you feel you must visit others, make it with a close circle of friends that doesn't change much (while wearing face coverings and physically distancing of course). Use other digital methods for gathering with larger groups that may be outside this tight knit group.
3. If you don't have to travel please consider not.
4. If you are sick - stay home.
Now, I know when I say this that folks are tired of this Pandemic. We all want to get on with our lives and we grow impatient with restrictions and tired of constantly having to "be creative" to do the things we once did without much thought. Man, do I know that feeling! We can be angry, we can be sad, we can do our best to put smiles on and pretend this all isn't real - but the reality is, that it is real. Even though a vaccine may be on the horizon, we are still several months away from it becoming widely available enough to put our schools out of danger of having to close. If we want to keep our schools open, we need your help as we get closer to a vaccine. As any good runner will tell you, you have to push the hardest the closer you get to the finish line. That's where we are folks...close but not there yet.
A NEW THOUGHT EXCHANGE SURVEY IS OUT - PLEASE PARTICIPATE! WE NEED YOUR VOICE!
A message from Assistant Superintendent Chris Record below:
Dear Gorham students, staff, and parents/guardians,
We hope you and your family are doing well. We are now in our 14th week or having students back in our schools. We are thankful for the efforts of everyone in making this happen. Now more than ever, it takes a village to collaborate in order to teach and support our children/students. With that in mind, after three months or so of participating in the Gorham hybrid model of teaching and learning, we would like to hear your thoughts on what is going well and what you have for questions or concerns. We want to continue to do what is working well and make adjustments, if possible, to what is not working so well. Please participate in this Thought Exchange. It will remain o pen until 12/21/20. Please continue to participate throughout the next two weeks...
Thought Exchange Link:
I have two quick resources to share. The first is from Maine Health and the 5-2-1-0 website. Maine Health has developed a variety of resources to help your family live 5-2-1-0 every day! And for families of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, we have tailored tools specific to the challenges these children and their families face.
A LITTLE POSITIVE BOOST TO HELP GET US ALL TO THE UPCOMING HOLIDAY BREAK
I have THREE things I want to share here. First, if you didn't get a chance to watch the School Committee meeting from Wednesday night live on GOCAT...you missed an awesome example of why we do what we do here in the Gorham Schools! We had 40+ GHS students and their coaches/advisors at the meeting on Wednesday night to share their experiences and "lessons learned" from the past fall in trying to play their respective sport or showcase the arts. Our students ROCK! They were articulate, they were passionate, and they shared many a lesson us adults should remember once in a while about perseverance, collaboration, and striving towards a common goal. If you want to watch - check out the meeting recording LINKED HERE. Their presentation starts at about the 18 minute mark. Worth the watch! These students represent our community so well!
The second thing I wanted to share was actually two wordles. The other night, I sent out TWO quick surveys. The first was sent to K-12 parents asking them to help support our staff the last week before the holiday by helping me to give them a little positive boost. I asked parents to share one word that describes our incredible staff. Within the first 3 hours, I have over 1,000 responses! The second survey, I sent to K-12 staff, only this time, I said I wanted to do something to support our parents in helping me to give them a little positive boost since we all know parents are working hard to help support us too. Once again, in the first few hours of the survey, I received an awesome response with over 200 staff responses! Here are the wordles for each:
From PARENTS describing our incredible staff:
From STAFF, describing our incredible parents:
Friday, December 4, 2020
Just wrapping up lucky week #13 of in person learning here in Gorham! I realize we've seen a lot of letters go out recently regarding positive cases associated with our schools, but let's take a minute to celebrate the positives! In the past 13 weeks of our hybrid model, we have had a total now (as of today) 13 positive cases of COVID 19 associated with our schools. Not one of these cases has originated in our schools (don't want to jinx myself here so "knock on wood") but seriously - NOT ONE. This is as we continue to serve well over 2700 students. This is as we continue to ask over 500 employees to report to work each day. The Maine DOE reported just last week that schools have only 40% the positivity rate that is seen across all other sectors in our state. It seems what we are doing and how we are doing it is working so please keep wearing those masks, washing/sanitizing those hands and keeping your six!
As Commissioner Makin stated in an article in the Portland Herald Press just this morning, according to the data our schools are some of the safest places to be right now and shutting down schools, unless we shut down all other activities in a community, wouldn't make conditions any safer. As Commissioner Makin states: "It would take a full community wide shutdown of all the other activities of daily life if we were to shut down schools and say that would be a step that would make people safer." I couldn't agree more and want to be clear that in Gorham my goal is to continue to prioritize in person learning because we know it is what is best for our students. As long as we can continue to operate our schools safely, maintaining our hybrid model of learning will continue to be our priority moving forward.
Now, it is important to note that not all parents may share this same sentiment and there is no shame in that. As parents you need to do what is right for your family in your unique circumstances. For those parents who would like to consider remote learning, moving students from our hybrid model of learning to a fully remote program continues to be an option at any time. However, as was the case in the fall once students are in the remote learning program they do need to stay there for the trimester/semester. I would urge parents who may be considering this to please reach out to your building principals to discuss the potential "pros" and "cons" so that you may best weigh that important decision.
SEL4ME RESOURCE FOR STAFF AND FAMILIES
I had shared this resource back a month or so ago, but given some increasing uneasiness across our community, I wanted to make sure that families and staff had access to this important resource developed by the Maine Department of Education.
SEL4ME is a FREE Social/Emotional Learning resource for all educators, parents, students and community members. It covers materials from Pre kindergarten all the way through 12th grade and is an excellent resource! I've taken a screen shot of the opening pages for preK, grade 6 and grade 10 so you can see some of the topics. These are just a few of the many topics that can be explored...I encourage you to dig more deeply!
GORHAM ANTI-RACISM POLICY UPDATE
The Gorham School Committee will be voting on the new Anti-Racism Policy for a 2nd and final reading at its next meeting scheduled for Dec. 9, 2020 beginning at 7:00 p.m. The meeting will be open to the public via a zoom link that can be located at the top of the agenda, or by going to our district home webpage and clicking on our calendar of events. If folks wish to share public comment, they are welcome to do so using the public comment section of the agenda. This meeting will be live streamed on the Town of Gorham's facebook page, and recorded and posted on the Town's website as well as the School District's website. You can find a copy of the revised Anti-Racism Draft policy by CLICKING HERE. You can view the agenda and public school committee meeting packet by CLICKING HERE. If you have any questions, please reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SNOW DAY LUNCHES - UPDATED INFORMATION
Just wanted to update you that at some point next week, families who have signed up for snow day lunches should be getting a special delivery. You will be receiving a special snow day lunch pack to keep stored in your home for use when schools have to be closed to in person instruction due to inclement weather. The plan is to have drivers deliver these snow storm meals when delivering the regular bag meals for at home learning days. If you have signed up for these meals and do not receive them by the end of next week, please reach out directly to School Nutrition Director Michael Sanborn at email@example.com. Also, if you did not sign up but are now interested in receiving one of these snow day meals, please go to the School Nutrition website LINKED HERE and complete the snow day survey, or you may reach out directly via email to SNP director Michael Sanborn at the email listed.
ASPIRE GORHAM NEWSLETTER
Our most recent Aspire Gorham newsletter is ready for viewing. I've included a quick "snapshot" from a highlight section on one of our students below...you will have to click the link to learn more about Gracie and Devyn's experiences!
CLICK HERE to view the full newsletter. HAPPY READING!
SOME RECENT STUDENT FUNDRAISERS OF INTEREST
These are certainly not all of the programs going on in our schools to raise funds for different student groups, but here are a couple I thought folks might be most interested in - especially with the Holidays coming right up...
Class of 2023 Online Auction:
* CLICK HERE for the introductory Video with information on how to participate.
* CLICK HERE for the auction items Video.
Gorham High School Football Apparel:
* CLICK HERE for the site to order your football "swag"!
WE NEED YOUR VOICE TO INFORM THE FUTURE OF CTE!
Westbrook Regional Vocational Center (WRVC) and the Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) invite you to a community forum on the future direction of programming and their vision for a career in technical education in our region. Gorham High School sends 73 students to these two schools each year and we'd like to see that number increase! Please see the flyer below for more details, and just in case the link from the flyer doesn't work - here's the zoom link to join.