Friday, January 15, 2021

January 15, 2021 Update

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!



Ok, now onto the information part!

COVID 19 RELATED UPDATES

As of the writing of this update, the Gorham Schools have had a total of 37 positive cases of COVID 19 associated with our schools since the opening of School in September of 2020.  This is on par or even a little lower than many of our neighboring school districts.  All 37 of these cases have originated from outside of our schools.  This means that since September of 2020 we have had 37 different opportunities for COVID 19 to spread in our schools and it has not.  As I've said before and I will say again - this data indicates to me that our schools are some of the safest places in our community to be right now, even as cases continue to rise in a post holiday surge.  

A significant problem, however continues to be that as cases rise in our community, the number of cases associated with our schools (albeit from outside origins) also increases. With that comes more close contacts, more quarantines, and a larger likelihood of having classrooms, grade levels or even entire schools have to move to "red" largely due to staffing capacity if they themselves are forced to quarantine.  

As we begin to feel the full brunt of a post holiday surge, the reality is that we are all working our tails off to keep schools open, but without everyone's continued focus and vigilance we may not be able to.  I know we are all tired.  We are all exhausted.  We are sick of having to sacrifice this or that.  We all just want to go outside, rip off our masks, scream at the top of our lungs and randomly hug any person in our site!  We want our social gatherings back.  We want our sporting events back.  We want our sleep-overs and pizza parties, and study groups back.  Even students who likely would have said they don't like school before this Pandemic would agree - they want their schools back!  I GET IT.  I want them back!  But right now, we still can't have them back.  Right now, we need to remain vigilant.  Right now we have to focus on remaining strong just so that we can keep the small bastions of hope we have created open and operational in our community. 

I met with our school nurses the other day and I met with our District Leaders just before that and one theme that came out in the feedback I collected is that they can feel the extreme fatigue beginning to creep in.  They can see people beginning to let their guards down because they are tired.  

I remember a classic quote from Thomas Fuller that states:  "It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn."  Folks...the "dawn" is there, just over the horizon.  I encourage you all to remain strong, to remain vigilant and continue to practice the safety protocols we all know work - because we have seen them work in our schools!  

* Wear your face coverings 
* Wash/Sanitize your hands frequently
* Keep your six!

And along with "keep your six"...comes the recommendation to limit connections to larger groups.  If you must have your "circles" to maintain your sanity or to care for family members, etc. - keep your face to face interactions with others as small as you can.  Don't think you can tell if someone has COVID or not just by looking at them.  You can't.  Some experience symptoms, some don't.  We have to assume other folks have the potential to spread this disease.  We have to assume we have the potential to spread this disease and then make decisions accordingly.  If we can begin to slow down what is happening for spread in our community, we can lesson the negative impacts it is having and will have on our schools and the children we serve.  Then in turn, we can lessen the negative impacts the pandemic will have on our families and our community as a whole.  

If 2020 has taught us nothing else, in so many different ways...like it or not, we are all connected to one another.  What we as individuals do does indeed have an impact on others.  The good news is that as individuals and together as a community we can determine whether those impacts are positive or negative.  The Gorham way is to help one another.  The Gorham way is to make sure those impacts are positive.  Let's keep this train safely rolling for as long we need to folks!  WE CAN DO IT!  GO RAMS!

VACCINATION UPDATE

Just wanted to take a quick moment to make sure folks were aware of some recent changes to CDC frameworks for planned vaccination processes.  Earlier this week the CDC announced that it is altering its priority process for vaccinations.  It has now categorized vaccinations into the following phases:

Phase IA
*. Health care workers
*. Long term care facility residents and staff
*. Police, firefighters, emergency workers.
*. Those who manufacture, distribute, process or report COVID-19 tests.

Phase IB
*. Residents age 70 and older
*. Those with high risk medical conditions
*. Some front-line workers at high risk exposure to COVID-19, including teachers and grocery store workers
*. Once a significant number of people 70 and older have been vaccinated, or if the supply increases, Maine will move to vaccinate those between the ages of 65-69

Phase IC
*. Other critical workers not already identified in Phase 1B

Phase 2
*. People ages 16 to 64 who are not otherwise eligible during a previous phase.

This new outline of phases moves away from a previous emphasis on job alike categories and towards an emphasis on vaccinating Maine's older and more medical high risk residents as a priority point.  If you are looking to try and better understand an approximate timeline of how this might all play out, the Maine CDC has a nice summary that can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.  

Once again, this is an ever evolving process as we are all doing things we've never had to do before and depending on lots of other folks doing these same very new things.  I continue to urge patience and vigilance as we continue to work our way through these processes.  Rest assured I will do my best to keep everyone informed as we go.  

In my upcoming blogs I am going to start a little "did you know" section about the COVID 19 vaccination in an attempt to VERY VERY STRONGLY ENCOURAGE FOLKS TO GET VACCINATED whenever their "turn" comes up.  Here's my first one:

DID YOU KNOW:  Epidemiologists conclude that we would need to vaccinate between 80-90% of the population in order to gain what is known as "herd immunity".  What does this mean for schools?  Approximately 80-90% of our populations (staff and students) would need to be vaccinated in order to bring back some version of "normal" for the fall of 2021.


THOUGHT EXCHANGE RESULTS

I wanted to be sure to share the results of our most recent Thought Exchange with parents.  Please note that we have already begun to dissect this feedback and make plans to address as many items as we can to continue to improve our existing systems.  THANK YOU to those who participated...we continue to greatly value your voices!



A message from Assistant Superintendent Chris Record below:

This exchange asked for student, parent, and staff feedback on the Hybrid Model. I have provided a link to the presentation above. Embedded in the presentation are links to a report on the themed student results, parent results, and staff results. I encourage you to look through them. 

The results from the October Thought Exchange and the December Thought Exchange do influence our decision-making. For instance, the District Leadership Team recently reviewed the December results (you can see highlights of that analysis in the presentation) and are already working on implementing some adjustments at each school.

Additionally, the School Committee will utilize the results as part of their discussion on the efficacy of the Hybrid  Model at an upcoming workshop to be held on Jan. 27, 2021.  CLICK HERE to access the agenda and zoom link information when it becomes available (as we get closer to this date).  

Link to both October & December Thought Exchange Results:

Please feel free to reach out to me, Heather, and/or your principal with any thoughts or questions. Your voice does matter.



ANTI-RACISM WORK UPDATE

The Gorham Anti-Racism Advisory Committee had its first meeting just before the holiday break and are scheduled to meet again on Jan. 25.  You can follow the work of this committee by CLICKING HERE.  

One of the pieces of information the committee will be reviewing is a live update from the administration on work that has been completed thus far.  I'd encourage you to check this list out as it is impressive.  Still much work to do - but clearly great progress is being made in meeting the action steps outlined in our school policy.  CLICK HERE to view the summary!

Additionally, I am working to finish up individual meetings with staff and parents as a follow up to the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Story surveys that were sent out before the holidays.  I am also finishing up meeting with student groups over the course of this month and early next month.  What incredible themes and stories I have collected thus far!  My intention is that once I have completed this data collection I will compile the themes and use them as the foundation for open forums on this topic with staff and community.  During these forums, I will roll out the data and facilitate discussions and reflections on what we think this data tells us.  I can't wait to share...student stories especially have been so very powerful!  Please stay tuned!

GHS CONCERT & A FEW OTHER UPCOMING EVENTS TO SAFELY STAY ACTIVE

I wanted to share some upcoming events of interest in the hopes of encouraging families to SAFELY remain active to help fight off those winter doldrums!  Here are a few highlights:

GHS Virtual Concert:

On Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, GHS is having a virtual concert called "Rhythm & Heart" on the 22nd.  All proceeds for the show are going to the Gorham Food Pantry, the Fuel Fund, and Furniture Friends.  For more details, check out the link below:


National Girls and Women In Sports Celebration

This multi day event has something for everyone!  It is being put on by Gorham Recreation and USM Athletics.  Check out the flyer below and CLICK HERE for more a form to sign up!



Gorham Outdoor Club:

The Gorham Outdoor Club is hosting an outdoor movie night coming up on Jan. 23.  Check out the flyer below for details and go to http://www.gorhamrec.com to register!



That's it for this week!  Enjoy your long weekend and see you next week for our 19th week of face to face instruction!  GO RAMS!














Friday, January 8, 2021

January 8 Blog Update

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!



Now, on to the informational part of this update!  

REMINDER OF THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATION WITH SCHOOLS REGARDING ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH COVID 19

We are back into the swing of things across our schools this week, and with that comes the need for a gentle reminder for parents across all grades to continue to communicate with our schools regarding any issues that may be associated with COVID 19.  This means, continuing to please do the following:

1.  Complete the daily symptoms checker so that our nurses and aids aren't having to spent too much time tracking down potential missing information to ensure we've heard from everyone, every day.
2.  If your child is experiencing symptoms (1 common or 2 less common), please keep them home and be sure to call the school nurse to let them know what is going on.
3.  If your child is having to stay home to quarantine due to close contacts or travel, please make sure the nurse is aware.
4.  If your child has tested positive for COVID 19, please make sure the nurse is aware.

Our system of safety protocols, their ability to continue to operate effectively, and in essence our abilities to KEEP OUR SCHOOLS OPEN depend heavily upon this important communication between home and school.  We take this information seriously, we keep it confidential, and we use it to support our families and ensure all of our students and staff remain safe.  We appreciate your continued attention to communication as we all patiently await the possibilities of vaccination, hopefully later this spring.

RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES ON HOW TO NAVIGATE RECENT EVENTS

Since it seems we are continuing to "live history" in so many ways as a community, a state, and a nation, I thought it might be beneficial to just share some resources for families that may help you to navigate difficult discussions with children of various ages.  You can review, use what you think is helpful, and "circular file" the rest...I hope folks can find some useful nuggets:

*. THIS ARTICLE was shared with me way back in 2018 (I know, seems like a lifetime ago) but the essence of it is still very much pertinent today...check it out - its called:  "Helping Kids Navigate Scary News Stories" by PBS. 

*. THIS ARTICLE is called "Caring for Students in the Wake of Traumatic News Events".   By Edutopia 

*. THIS ARTICLE is entitled:  How to Talk to Kids About Violence, Crime, and War by Common Sense Media.  

*. THIS ARTICLE is entitled:  "How to Talk to Kids About What they See On The News" by Kurtz Pyschology

*. THIS ARTICLE is entitled:  "How to Talk to Your Child About The News" by Kids Health

Also, please know that our school resources are here to help!  If you have ANY CONCERNS for your child(ren) please do not hesitate to reach out to your child's teacher(s) or school Principals.  We stand ready to support our families in any way you may need. 

UPCOMING SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETINGS

Just wanted to take a moment to let folks know of some upcoming School Committee meeting dates/times and ways to access information and follow along in their important work.  First, I wanted to make sure you knew that at their next meeting (coming up on Jan. 13 via zoom) we will be presenting the results of our most recent Thought Exchange Survey to the School Committee.  I'll share them directly in next week's blog post too...but if you want to hear the presentation to the School Committee - mark your calendars!  Here's a list of upcoming meetings and links to agendas (which also give you the zoom links):

*. January 13, 2021 - Regular School Committee Meeting, 7:00 p.m. start
*. January. 27, 2021 - Workshop Meeting with local legislative delegation, 6:00 p.m. start
*. February 10, 2021 - Regular School Committee Meeting, 7:00 start
*. February 24, 2021 - Workshop Meeting, 7:00 p.m. start
*. February 27, 2021 - Full Day Budget Workshop Meeting, 8:30 a.m. start.

You can find all agendas (with zoom links)  by CLICKING HERE.  On that same page, near the top of the page, you will find a link to access the full board packet materials for each meeting as well.

If you are interested in following the work of standing board subcommittees, you can do so by CLICKING HERE.

If you are interested in just viewing our overall meeting calendar to keep up with events you can go to our district's main website page (www.gorhamschools.org) and just scroll to the bottom right to click on our calendar of events.  

Since we have moved back to zoom meetings due to increasing COVID 19 numbers in our community, we have also been recording our meetings for later viewing.  You can access those recordings by CLICKING HERE and scrolling to the bottom of that page.  Our regular monthly meetings are also streamed live by GOCAT and on the Town's facebook page.

As always, if anyone has any questions about upcoming topics, policies, or where to find any information about our schools - please reach out to me directly and ask away!  My email address is:  heather.perry@gorhamschools.org

ASPIRE GORHAM JANUARY, 2021 NEWSLETTER

This month's newsletter features some great from some of our talented GHS students who are working hard to write their own "Future Stories"...check it out!  CLICK HERE for the Newsletter!

EXCITING EVENTS GEARED TOWARDS PARENTS AND FAMILIES

As we all have found out over the course of the past several months, one of the most difficult things about working through a Pandemic is the sense of isolation that can develop if you don't force yourself to "get out there" and "get involved" in things that maybe aren't the same as they always were, but can be equally as gratifying.  Below I am sharing TWO opportunities for parents and families to do that very thing!  The first comes from a new organization forming in Gorham called the Gorham Outdoors Club.  You can read a little bit about them below:


This group will be putting on its first event this weekend - a trail walk and scavenger hunt!  Read more about that below:



For easier access to the "Letterbox Mystery Link" CLICK HERE.  

The SECOND event is geared more towards parents, but no less engaging!  This event is an evening of learning for parents entitled:  "Parenting Teens In a Pandemic" and is sponsored by GATY (Gorham Action Team for Youth).  Check out the flyer below for details.  I've also hyperlinked the zoom information from the image so it is easier for you to click on...


Here's the zoom link:


Meeting ID:  959 7132 2755

Phone access:  1-646-558-8656

I think that's enough for this week!  I hope you all enjoy your weekends...see you right back here for week #18! STAY SAFE!  GO RAMS!


















Friday, December 18, 2020

December 18 Update

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 tim.spear@gorhamschools.org or myself at heather.perry@gorhamschools.org.

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.

Information from the Mayo Clinic

Information from CDC

21 Festive Quarantine Ideas For the Holidays

Tips from the Associated Press

* Tips from  the Today  Show

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!


ANSWERING A FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION

This  question, along with other lots of other awesome questions, was asked of me during the most recent K-12 parent open forum.  The question is this:  How can you have a positive case of  COVID 19 associated  with our schools and NOT have close contacts?

Great question!  The answer is there are actually lots of different ways this can happen...but for the sake of brevity, I'll describe the top two ways we are seeing this occur. The most frequent way we see this in our schools is when a family member that is not a student or staff member tests positive and the other family  members are deemed close contacts.  Later as those individuals are going through their quarantine period, they develop symptoms themselves and then test positive.  The student or staff member would have been in quarantine for several days before experiencing symptoms or testing positive so when we do our typical contact tracing that requires us to look back 2 days prior to symptoms  or 2 days prior to the test, they weren't in school - so no close contacts.   Here's a specific example:

Father of a child in  Gorham Schools tests positive, likely contracting it from work.  Children stay home to quarantine as close contacts.   7 days into the quarantine the child tests positive and the school  is notified.  We go back 2 days prior to the test being  taken and determine that the child was at home under quarantine, therefore there are no close contacts.  The school still has to report the associated case, because the child is a student at one of our schools, but there are no close contacts.

The second way this occurs is similar in nature.   Let's say  we have a student who begins feeling  symptoms on a Tuesday morning.  Let's say the student is a B day student so this would have been their first day back at school that week...but because they were experiencing symptoms they stayed home.  The student later  gets  tested and on  Friday finds out they are positive.  We would then do our contact tracing 2 days prior to the symptoms...in this case that would fall on a Sunday.  No school in session so there would be no close contacts.

There were LOTS  of great questions asked  during the most recent parent forum so I thought folks  might want to listen in.  I recorded the session which can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.  It is worth the watch!

TECHNOLOGY HELP - HOW TO ACCESS  IT AS A PARENT

The Gorham Schools have provided 1:1 devices for all our students in grades K-12.  These devices have been incredible learning tools, no  doubt. But like any other piece of equipment, sometimes they don't work exactly the way you think they should!  As a parent or caregiver, I'm sure you have asked:  How do I get my tech questions answered?

Many of you have been asking your child's classroom teachers to help in these areas, which they have done a wonderful job at doing.  However, some of your questions can't really wait until the end of the day or when a teacher gets a chance to check their email.  In those circumstances, please know there is help.  Our Gorham School Department has an incredibly talented technology team who stand ready to assist while doing lots of other technology tasks as well.  If  you have these kinds of questions, I'd encourage you to reach out to this talented team. Here's how:

*  High School & Middle School:

You may reach out to the technology staff assigned to your school (listed above), or email Tech Support <techsupport@gorhamschools.org> or call the tech support line: 207-222-1188

*  Elementary School, ​

please email your teacher, and:

Joanne Gauley <​joanne.gauley@gorhamschools.org> or email Tech Support <techsupport@gorhamschools.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 <dennis.crowe@gorhamschools.org> 

THOUGHT EXCHANGE  - FINAL REMINDER TO PARTICIPATE!

Hi Gorham students, staff, and parents/guardians,

We hope you and your family are doing well. We are now in our 15th week of having students back in our schoolsWe 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 open until 12/21/20. Please continue to participate throughout the next two weeks.

Thought Exchange Link:

Or, by Smartphone:
Text the 9-digit code 470-136-252 to the phone number 728-55 to get a link to participate in this exchange

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.  

Here is the link to the ParentU event on December 21st about CTE:

Passcode: 335502

ASPIRE  GORHAM STEERING COMMITTEE  LEARNS ABOUT PROJECTED TRENDS IN KEY CAREER FIELDS IN MAINE

At its meeting held on Wednesday, the Aspire Gorham Steering Committee spent some time learning from the Department of Labor regarding  projected trends in Maine's labor markets over the next ten years.  It was a fascinating presentation that just touches  the "tip of the iceberg" of incredible data that can be found on the  Department  of Labor's site for those interested in looking further.  Of particular interest were conversations around where jobs will be in Maine in the next 10 years, and what kinds of skills are required to land these jobs.  As I said, it was a fascinating discussion that I just happened to record for your  benefit! ☺  Below, please find  the recording link for this  presentation as  well as the link to the Maine Department  of  Labor site where you can discover even more!

* Presentation Recording

Maine Department of Labor Site.

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!



Have a  great weekend...and  best wishes for  a SAFE and HAPPY Holiday Season from our Gorham family to yours!  PROUD TO BE A RAM!









Friday, December 11, 2020

December 11 Update

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:

https://my.thoughtexchange.com/#470136252

ONE MORE SNOW DAY REMINDER AS WINTER IS HERE

Just a reminder that for this year (and yes, I  really only see this for this year due to COVID) we will not be having our traditional snow days.   If inclement weather is predicted, I will still call school very similarly to how I've done it in the past.  Everyone will get their morning phone call, email and text...but now rather than there being no school, the expectation will be to still conduct learning on these days. 

For most of these new "not snow days" teachers  and students will be  able to login from home to access their work in a very similar manner to how it is done now on at home learning days.  See saw, and google classroom will be the  primary places that teachers will communicate their expectations on these days.  In some circumstances power outages may be an issue and in those cases teachers have developed contingency learning expectations that can be completed at home with no power.  

This week, snow day meal packs will be delivered to those families who are participating in our school lunch program.  These snow day meals should be stored at home and pulled out for use on snow days as we will not be able to deliver meals to homes when the roads are bad.  If you haven't indicated to our School Nutrition program that you want a snow day meal, its  not too late -  please reach out via email to michael.sanborn@gorhamschools.org

Still  have questions?  Please reach out to your building principals and they'd be  more than happy to answer!

SOME HEALTHY RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES

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.

Check out their incredible  resources by CLICKING HERE.  

The second resource is for a short video series called the  Psychologists Guide to Winter Well-Being.  As the colder months are now with  us, I thought this one might be  a timely resource as well.  Right now there are two videos posted to the site, but it will grow to be an 8 video series.

Check out this resource by CLICKING HERE.

OPEN K-12 PARENT FORUM  WITH 
SUPERINTENDENT  PERRY

I had sent this out as an email  earlier this week, but wanted to remind folks of  the opportunity to join me for an evening of Q&A around COVID 19 and our schools, our  hybrid model, what we anticipate for the winter/spring and more.  The  forum will be held on  Tuesday, Dec. 15 starting at 6:00 p.m. via zoom.  You can find the zoom link on our  district webpage calendar  of events.  Just go to www.gorhamschools.org and click on the events calendar at the bottom right  of the main  page.

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:

AWESOME!  And then these two images lead me to the third, and last piece I wanted to share to help encourage us all as we head towards the home stretch before the Holiday break. It's a poem.  The poem is about the importance of the intersection between these two groups:  Parents and Teachers.  It is called "Unity" and I think it describes all we need to know about the importance of both groups working together for the benefit of our children.  


That's it for this week!  ENJOY YOUR  WEEKENDS!





Friday, December 4, 2020

December 4 Update

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.  


MORE COVID LEARNING:  WHAT DEFINES AN OUTBREAK IN SCHOOLS & HOW ARE SCHOOLS SUPPOSED TO REACT TO AN OUTBREAK IF IT OCCURS?


With the increasing number of cases in our community, I wanted to share this information - not to increase anxiety - but hopefully to do the opposite because you know we have plans in place for just about any contingency.

An outbreak of COVID 19 in schools is defined as having 3 or more positive confirmed cases associated with the school within a single 14 day period.  These outbreaks may be handled very differently depending upon several different circumstances the largest of which being if the cases are related, or if they originated within the school itself or not.  

In all circumstances where a school has reported 3 positive cases within the 14 day window described above, the first thing the school does is reach out to the Maine Department of Education to report the positive cases and alert them to the fact that an outbreak may be occurring.  The MDOE then refers the information shared to the Maine CDC.  If the Maine CDC determines the situation to indeed be an outbreak, a Maine CDC outbreak investigator would then be assigned to investigate and coordinate any response with the school.  Things get pretty individualized from here depending on the specific circumstances of the case, but generally what would occur if an outbreak were indeed declared is the following:

1.  A specific notification would be sent to all individuals associated with the school to make them aware of the outbreak,

2.  If all three cases were in a single classroom, the entire classroom would be considered close contacts for the purposes of quarantining and testing and would be moved to a red status.  If the cases were spread across multiple classrooms the entire school would move to a period of remote learning whereby all in person learning would be suspended for a period not less than 14 days.  

3.  Either the classroom impacted or the school impacted would be required to be deeply cleaned, disinfected and sanitized.

4.  Identified individuals (either classroom or school wide) would be encouraged to be tested for COVID 19.  If individuals were determined to be a close contact, they would be required to remain quarantined for no less than 14 days regardless of test result.  Individuals who were not close contacts, but were still sent home as a result of the outbreak would have the option of returning after a negative COVID test as long as building cleaning had been completed by that time.  If these individuals (non close contacts) elect not to be tested, they would need to remain quarantined for the full 14 day time frame.

4.  The classroom/school would continue to be closely monitored by CDC outbreak investigators until the outbreak is "closed".  This would occur 28 days after the last positive test or symptom onset associated with the outbreak is reported, whichever is later.

Whew - that's a lot of information in there...and it is certainly NOT INTENDED TO HEIGHTEN ANYONE'S ANXIETY! The intent of sharing this information is to make parents, students, staff, and community members aware that these protocols exist and that these contingencies have been planned for with the continued focus on ensuring the safety of our school family.  

It is important to note that the first "straw" to be pulled to implement these protocols would involve first having to get to 3 cases within a 14 day period and second, that those cases would be determined by the CDC to be related and therefore constitute an outbreak.  So far, this has not occurred for our schools.  But given the increasing numbers in our community right now, there is a growing chance this could occur, so I wanted you all to be prepared and to understand roughly what to expect and more importantly WHY these protocols exist to ensure the safety of our students and staff.  

DEEP BREATHS...WE GOT THIS!

Now, after reading all this COVID information...I'm sure some anxiety has been heightened.  If this is the case, I encourage you to take a step back, take a few deep breaths and know that if an outbreak occurs, myself, our school leaders, our school nurses and our entire school staff will be standing right by your side to help lead us safely through such an occurrence with the ultimate goal of returning everyone to school as quickly as possible. 

Our district has clear plans for how to operate in a red environment, for a short term or longer term need.  You can view the details of those plans by reading our "Pandemic Operations Plan".  Our teachers know how to deal with whole classes being moved to red, groups of students being quarantined, and everything in between.  Our school nutrition and transportation folks know how to deliver meals, and our support staff know how to support.  We are prepared, we care deeply about each and every student in our care and their families and we share the common goal of ensuring students are in face to face instruction environments as much as is safely possible.  Know we will get through whatever COVID 19 has to throw at us this winter TOGETHER! ☺

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!  

Pre K:


Gr. 6:


Gr. 10:


Some timely topics for sure, especially now with what we are all going through with COVID 19.  

Here is the link - IT IS FREE!  CHECK IT OUT! https://sel4me.maine.gov/

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 heather.perry@gorhamschools.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 michael.sanborn@gorhamschools.org.  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.

https://zoom.us/j/99690015701?pwd=T1VUZFdRd2RRZnBNTFc5QWluK3BBZz09

Passcode: 335502

Or iPhone one-tap : 1-312-626-6799 


Well, that's enough information for this week's Blog.  See you again next week!