Sunday, June 9, 2019

End of Year Information For Parents

Hard to believe we are closing out another incredible year within the Gorham Schools here shortly!  Its been such a great year with so many positive stories and incredible accomplishments by our students and staff.  It would take me too long to list so I won't do that here...but I would encourage you that if you don't already follow us on Facebook or Twitter - YOU SHOULD.  Its the best way to keep up with our very active and talented students and their accomplishments!

I wanted to go over several different items in this blog post so please bear with me.  I will do my best to use subtitles so you can either elect to skip over items, or read this post in "bite-size" chunks.  The first thing I wanted to review with folks is what to expect on June 11's Referendum Vote:

June 11 Referendum Vote:

There are actually THREE questions on this year's ballot related to the schools. . .

The first is our annual budget validation referendum.  The proposed FY 20 budget was unanimously approved last week by the Town Council.  The last step in this process is to have this budget "validated" by voters via referendum.  Voters will be asked to either vote "YES" to validate or approve of the proposed FY 20 budget or to vote "NO" to not validate and therefore not approve of the proposed FY 20 budget.  If the majority of voters vote "YES" the budget has been approved by the School Committee and the Town Council and validated by voters and is good to move forward.  If the majority of voters vote "NO" then the budget has been approved by the School Committee and the Town Council but NOT by the voters which would then require us to "go back to the drawing board" with the School Committee, revise the budget and go through the process all over again until we can pass a budget that is approved by all three bodies (School Committee, Town Council, and validated by voters).  Overall, we believe this is the best possible budget that balances the needs of our seemingly ever growing student population with the needs of our community.  You can find detailed information by going to our website LINKED HERE if you want to learn more.

The second item on the referendum is a vote that is required to be placed on the referendum by state statute every three years.  This question simply asks if voters would like to keep the budget validation process or not.  I will be honest that Gorham has been doing the budget validation process since the 1990's, well ahead of when the state mandated it for schools across the state in the mid 2000's.  If voters vote to keep the validation process things would continue as they have since then.  If voters vote to get rid of the validation process then all that would be required to pass the annual school budget would be a majority vote of the School Committee AND a majority vote of the Town Council.  The validation would simply go away.

The third item on the referendum is a vote to approve of the proposed K-5 Modular expansion at Narragansett Elementary School.  This is a MUCH NEEDED proposal with a tight timeline.  If you want to learn more about the proposal I'd encourage you to watch the video LINKED HERE

I realize that there may be parents out there who are pretty nervous about this proposal because they know that connected with this much needed facilities expansion is a planned shift in attendance zones.  I have had many parents reach out with questions about this shift, wanting to know if their child(ren) would be impacted and unfortunately I have had to let parents know that we do not yet know who will be impacted by this change.  We are, however, very mindful of this issue and understand the angst that many parents may be feeling towards a proposal that may shift students from one K-5 school to another.  Please know we would not propose this shift if we did not feel it was absolutely necessary and in the best interest of all K-5 students in Gorham.  The bottom line is this, our existing K-5 facilities (Great Falls, Narragansett and Village) will be full when we begin the 2018-19 school year and we know that in the following year the student population will continue to grow.  This means we will be out of space.  We also know that this growth is not going to stop anytime soon.  It may slow, granted, but there is no anticipation of it stopping.  Therefore, this is not a "short term" problem, but a long term problem which requires a long term plan. 

The plan that has been developed by the School Committee is a mid-range plan AND a long-range plan, one feeding into the other.  The long-range plan requires the need for us to build another major capital expansion (or a new building entirely) in order to account for our continued growth.  However in order to get to this long term solution, we need to develop a mid-range plan because we need state funding to help us achieve our long range goal.  This modular expansion proposal will address the mid-range needs of our K-5 schools while setting us up to achieve our long term goals.  After almost three years of study, the School Committee unanimously supports this proposal and the Town Council unanimously supported placing this question on the June referendum.

I have had parents also ask what would happen if this were referendum were not approved.  The simple answer would be that we would need to re-group and would likely bring this plan back for approval in November.  However, by doing so we are not greatly impacting our timelines for accomplishing the work needed.  The likelihood would then be high that we would need to expend additional unnecessary funds to place a truly temporary modular at one of the schools in order to then go back to this plan for 2021-22.  In the meantime, the likelihood is also high that class sizes would need to increase at this level as this would be the only way to fit more students into the same number of spaces.  None of these alternative would be pleasant. 

Again, we understand the angst that parents may be feeling with this process and so I thought it might also be fruitful to outline the plan we have in place to shift attendance zones for 2020-21.  I hope you will note the timelines, and activities and understand we would be doing this work with intentionality and great care towards ensuring any transitions families must go through are as smooth and thoughtful as possible.

Our Attendance Zone Plan

In an effort to allay some fears, I thought it would be useful to outline the process we would undertake to shift attendance zones for the 2020-21 school year.  Basically, it would be as follows:

Summer - September, 2019 - Administration would work with Municipal planners to identify largest areas of potential growth in Gorham over the next 10-15 years. We would then use this information to re-draw the lines of our three schools attendance zones.  The goal would be to "point" growth towards Narragansett Elementary School while ALSO working to reduce enrollments at Great Falls and Village to give them continued room to grow over the next 10-15 years as well. 

October, 2019 - Proposed New Attendance zones would be announced to families.

November/December, 2019 - School staff and administration would work to identify which staff members would be moving to which locations in the district AND identify which students would be going into which classrooms to begin the 2020-21 school year.

January, 2020 - K-5 Classroom assignments will be announced to families for 2020-21 school year.

January - June, 2020 - Each school will host family nights, open houses, step up days, and many more activities.  These activities will be aimed at allowing families to get to know their child's new placements for the 2020-21 school year and to develop friendships and other relationships with peers and other families in preparation for the new attendance zone shift to occur.

August, 2020 - A special day will be held for any new families to our schools to come visit classrooms, playgrounds, and new teachers prior to the beginning of the school year.

August, 2020 - School will begin.

I hope that you can see that we would take this process very seriously and do all that we could to ensure that necessary transitions occur as smoothly as possible.  One thing that should make all of our parents feel good is that ALL THREE of our K-5 Schools are AWESOME.  They are all three staffed by the most incredible teachers on the face of the planet (sorry I could be a bit biased here), all of whom care tremendously about your children and all of whom will work tirelessly to make sure this transition goes as well as it can possibly go.

I know this is asking a lot of families to support, but as I said earlier...the School Committee believes that this is the best possible solution moving forward and we wouldn't be proposing these changes if we didn't feel as though the alternatives would be much less so.

Last Days and First Days

The last student day for the Gorham Schools will be Tuesday, June 18, 2019.  This will be a HALF DAY of school for students.  Students will be dismissed on that day according to our usual early release schedules at each school.  Teachers will then come over to GMS on the afternoon of June 18 for our district wide staff closing and then they too will be dismissed for the summer.  Our school offices will be open for at least another week at each school so if you need anything that would be the time to reach out.  After the 25th of June our most of our school's offices will be open intermittently during the summer with the exception of GHS whose office is open throughout the summer months along with our central office.  If you get into the summer months and are unsure of school hours, but wish to talk with someone about a question please just reach out to Rhonda Warren (222-1012) at my office and she can direct you from there.

Not that ANYONE will be thinking of this anytime soon, but just so parents are aware, school will re-open again for teachers on August 26 and 27.  Students in grades K,6 and 9 will begin their first student day on August 28, 2019 and then all students will begin on August 29, 2019.  You can find a copy of our district calendar LINKED HERE for reference in planning your upcoming school year.

Next Year's NEW START AND END TIMES Across All Schools

As you can recall, the School Committee voted this spring to extend the student day by 20 minutes at the K-5 level and by 10 minutes at the grades 6-12 level to begin in the 2019-20 school year.  This means that start times at the K-5 Schools will shift and that ending times at all 5 schools will shift.  Official start and end times for the 2019-20 School Year per school are as follows:



As you can see, the school day will officially begin about 10 minutes earlier for our K-5 schools next year and will end about 10 minute later.  For GMS and GHS students, the day will end about 10 minutes later than it has in the past.

Please plan your schedules accordingly and if you have any questions, please reach out to either the Transportation office (893-2547) or my office (222-1012) and we'll be more than happy to answer them for you!

Transportation

As was the case last year, students will need to be "signed up" for pick up and drop off locations in advance of the opening of school.  There will be an online form available for existing families to make adjustments to routes and for new families to sign up.  That form will be posted on our transportation website sometime between now and the end of June.  Please check it out and call with any questions you may have.  The Transportation site is LINKED HERE. 

As was also the case last year, there is a limit to the number of pick up and drop off locations families are allowed.  I would ask that families familiarize themselves with our updated Transportation Policy, LINKED HERE and again, please reach out to my office or transportation if you have questions.

GHS Building Proposal

The work continues to find a way to address the needs of our growing student populations.  At this point, the GHS building committee has worked to reduce the scope of the project to what we feel is the bare minimum that still meets the educational needs of the students while reducing costs.  Revised proposals are currently being estimated and will be ready for review by the committee in late June.  The next step would then be to take that information and share it with the School Committee and to then meet jointly with the Town Council where we will share the revised proposal as well as the results of community input and determine next steps from there.

The likelihood is very high that we will NOT be ready to bring forward an item for the November, 2019 referendum, but this does not mean that the problems have been resolved.  It simply means we continue to do our due diligence so that when something is brought to the voters for approval it will be the RIGHT "something".  Please follow this work on our website (LINKED HERE) and stay tuned!

Athletic Capital Campaign

This work also continues and we have now set a "launch date" for our "Gorham Pride" Campaign.  We will be launching our campaign formally in alignment with this coming fall's Homecoming celebrations.  Please stay tuned for details...we have some very special plans in store and we will be ramping up communications in August!

Closing

I think that is all the essential information for now.  Parents should keep your eyes open on the transportation website for route forms to be completed.  I will send out an email when it is ready.  Families whose students are interested in fall sports should also keep an eye on our website (Athletic Page is LINKED HERE) to get updates on when physicals are required and when fall practices will begin. 

As the summer progresses and you have questions, please reach out to me at 222-1012 or feel free to email me at heather.perry@gorhamschools.org.

THANK YOU FOR ANOTHER GREAT YEAR! 

It is a pleasure to serve this incredible community...#Gorham Pride!☺




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