Monday, August 12, 2019

2019-20 OPENING INFORMATION FOR PARENTS

Hard to believe that another summer has already passed by so quickly!  I have to admit, although I do enjoy the summer time schedule with less night meetings and fewer problems to solve - I wouldn't trade the opening of school for anything!  There is nothing like the sights and sounds associated with great schools and our schools here in Gorham are great!  The smiling faces, the laughter, the murmur of conversations, the clicking of keys on laptop keyboards, the music and art on our stages and the competitions on our athletic fields.  Schools are just too darn quiet in the summer!  I can't wait for them to be ALIVE again with learning so I eagerly await August 26 and 27th when staff return and then August 28 and 29 when students return!

                

As with any new school year there is A LOT to share and talk about in order to ensure everyone is on the same page and the school year gets off to a strong start.  Here goes!

Opening Schedule & New Start/End Times for Schools:


School Office staff and guidance staff will return to schools full time (most have had summer hours) beginning the week before school begins on August 19, 2019.  If you have enrollment questions, or just need information about ANYTHING, please reach out to each school's office during this week and we will be more than happy to assist.  You can find each school's phone number on our website:  www.gorhamschools.org and if you still can't locate phone numbers, just call Rhonda at my office 222-1012 and she can direct you from there as needed.  We want to make sure that any question you have, no matter how small, is answered!

The first day back for new staff hired this past year will be Thursday, August 22 where new staff will meet at central office for training.  Then ALL staff come back from their summer vacations on Monday, August 26th and 27th for two full days of training and work/prep time.

The first day back for students in grades K, 6, and 9 will be Wednesday, August 28, 2019, then ALL STUDENTS begin on Thursday, August 29, 2019.

This year we have changed our start and end times, and I know there was a little confusion with my earlier parent letter (having sent out the wrong draft) so wanted to make sure folks had that information accurately.  Start and end times for each school are as follows:

Great Falls Elem.               Start:  8:50     End:  3:10
Narragansett Elem.            Start:  8:50     End:  3:10
Village Elem.                     Start:  8:50     End:  3:10
Gorham Middle School     Start:  8:00     End:  2:20
Gorham High School         Start:  7:50     End:  2:10

Transportation Policy and Bus Routes:



A copy of our full transportation policy is LINKED HERE, but some highlights include:

Required Walking Distances. . .

*  Students in grades K-5 will not be required to walk more than .3 miles to the nearest bus stop or to school.  In other words, K-5 students who live within .3 miles of a bus stop or a school should be prepared to walk to that stop or to school.

*  Students in grades 6-12 will not be required to walk more than 1 mile to the nearest bus stop or to school.  Again, this means that students in grades 6-12 who live within 1 mile of a bus stop or a school should be prepared to walk to that stop or to school.

Pick up and Drop Off locations. . . 

This policy was revised last year and is essentially the same in that K-12 students are permitted to have up to two pick up locations and up to two drop off locations that follow a consistent daily schedule.  Specifically, each student must select one of the two pick-up locations and one of the two drop-off locations for each day of the week.  The same Monday through Friday schedule will apply throughout the entire school year and alternating weekly schedules and/or daily changes are not permitted.  You can read more by going directly to the policy linked above.

2019-20 Bus Routes. . . 

New bus routes for the 2019-20 School Year will be posted on the district website by August 16 and will also appear in the Gorham Times in their August 23rd edition.  Please review the bus routes when they are posted and if you have questions, call the transportation office at 893-2547.

Learning System Resources:



For parents who would like to better understand our K-12 learning system in Gorham, I would urge you to check out the resources that we have posted on our website (linked above).  Once you are on the district site, please go to "About Us" on the left side of the main page, then click on "Gorham's Learning System" and from there you can navigate to all kinds of information on the right side of the page that I think you will find most helpful.  Of particular interest, are the following items:

Gorham's Learning System Handbook
Gorham's Grading Guide
"One Pager" on Our Learning System
"One Pager" on Our 1-4 Grading Scale (used in grades K-8)
"One Pager" on our Numeric Grading Scale (used in grades 9-12)
Copy of GHS Sample College Transcript

As always, if you have any questions, please reach out to your building principal or to me and we'd be more than happy to answer them!

Importance of Attendance:



Before I transition over to talking about a few important items that we will be focused on for the coming 2019-20 School Year here in Gorham, I did want to take a minute while everyone  is thinking about the opening days of school to promote the importance of school attendance for all children!

Did you know that absenteeism in the first month of school can predict poor attendance throughout the school year?  Did you know that poor attendance can influence whether children read proficiently by the end of third grade?  Did you know that by 6th grade, chronic absenteeism (missing 10% or more of the school year - which in Gorham is a total of 18 days) becomes a leading indicator that students will drop out of high school? Did you know that research shows that a student who is chronically absent performs lower academically than students who are not?

As a school system, WE NEED YOUR HELP!  When you as the parent make school attendance a priority, you help your child get better grades, develop healthy life habits, and have a better chance of graduating from high school ready to successfully meet all the challenges life may have in store for them!  Please help us, help your child to make daily school attendance a priority! THANK YOU!

Important Work in the Coming 2019-20 School Year:


A.L.I.C.E. . . 

As a district, we have several big items that we will be undertaking this year to benefit our students and our community.  The first deals with a topic we take very seriously here in Gorham, our student and staff safety.  As I mentioned in my opening letter, the Gorham Schools has adopted an emergency response protocol called A.L.I.C.E. for use with some specific crisis situations we hope never occur in our schools, but that we must be prepared for nonetheless.  ALICE stands for "Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate". 

During the course of the last school year we trained all K-12 staff in this new model and we are now ready to work on training students and parents about how it works and what to expect.  We will be training K-12 students in this protocol using a three-step approach.  The first step is to simply educate parents and students about ALICE.  The second step involves what we call "table top" discussions with teachers and students on how to use ALICE in specific circumstances and the third involves trainings where students have to make decisions, follow directions, and work through the protocols.  As you might imagine, these trainings will look very different for students in grade K as they might for students in grade 11 or 12.  We will be having an opening "informational night" for interested parents to learn more about ALICE and our plans for training students on Tuesday, August 276, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. at the GMS auditorium.  I would encourage parents who are interested in learning more to attend.

Aspire Gorham. . . 

Over the past several years GHS students have been focused on creating their "Future Stories".  What we've come to realize in this work is that students should begin thinking about their "Future Stories" well before they arrive at GHS!  Conversations with children about their future aspirations should start at an early age and be a conversation among many in the community, not just between parents and children or between guidance counselors and students, but between the entire community and the children who live here.

Aspire Gorham is focused on creating a community wide, Birth to adult, conversation about Aspirations (Our Future Stories).  It is focused on ensuring that students are EXPOSEd to various careers early on, that they get a chance to EXPLORE various careers throughout the course of their education in our schools and that they also get a chance to EXPERIENCE different pathways leaving our schools to pursue their Future stories more deeply.

The Gorham Schools will be launching its first full year of Aspire Gorham work this year.  We begun to create strong partnerships with our early learning community, we have established goals for all our schools (K-12) and we have strengthened relations with Adult Education programs and neighboring postsecondary schools (like USM).  We have some exciting things in store for our students and families this year - so stay tuned to hear more!

K-5 Attendance Zone Changes for 2020-21 School Year. . .

As most of you likely know, the Gorham Schools have been growing over the past few years.  In just the past four years we have added almost 180 students to just our grades K-5 classrooms alone!  As a result we have had to add positions and fill up classroom spaces at all three K-5 Schools.  Our three K-5 schools are now full and we need to figure out a way to continue to grow while keeping the best educational interests of our K-5 students in mind over both the short and long term.

As a means to this end, the Gorham School Committee has developed a long range facilities plan for K-5 that involves a "two-step" process.  The first step was approved by voters in June, 2019 - a modular expansion at Narragansett Elementary School.  The plan here is to reduce enrollments at Great Falls and Village Elementary Schools (to give them room to grow over the next 10-15 years) while pointing as much of the "new growth" towards Narragansett Elementary School.  This plan will result in the creation of three K-5 schools that will eventually have very similar enrollments and the eventual proposal to the state to build on a permanent capital addition to Narragansett Elementary School to house our growing populations for the longer term.

In order to make this plan a reality, a component of this work will be to shift our existing attendance zones so that we can reduce enrollments at Great Falls and Village and point growth towards Narragansett Elem. The School Committee realizes that NO ONE likes to have attendance zones change.  Changing attendance zones will likely mean that students/families that had attended one school for a year or even more, may be asked to attend a different school and no one likes these changes.  We work hard to build a strong "family" culture at each of our schools and when this "family" is interrupted...well no one is happy.  Of course, that doesn't mean we don't do it, because in order to do what is best for our children over the longer term, this piece of unpleasantness is necessary.  Please know that the Gorham Schools are going to work hard with ALL OUR FAMILIES to ensure that the process of shifting attendance zones goes as smoothly as it possibly can with a focus on building and maintaining those strong relationships we are so proud of here in Gorham.

Here's how the timeline for this work will roughly play out so you know what to expect:

Summer - September, 2019 Administration will work to re-draw the lines for our newly proposed attendance zones.  Again, the goal is to reduce enrollments at GF and Village and point growth towards Narr. Elem.

October, 2019 - Administration will bring draft attendance zone shifts to the School Committee for approval.  Once approved, the new zones will be announced to families.

October - December, 2019 - Administration will work to identify which staff members would be moving to which locations in the district AND identify which specific families will be attending which schools for the 2020-21 school year.

December, 2019 - Staffing changes will be announced to families.

January - June, 2020 - Specific transition activities will be hosted by the school aimed at making sure students and families are familiar with new schools and new staff.  Individual students may not yet be assigned to individual classrooms (which typically isn't announced each year until June's step up day regardless), but families and students will know which schools they will be attending and which teams (grade levels) of teachers they will be working with at each of those schools.  Activities may include open houses, informational nights, step up days, and many more.  The focus will be on building up those new strong relationships so that transitions will be as smooth as possible once they occur.

August, 2020 - School will begin.  New placements will be in place.  And then hopefully we won't have to adjust for another 10-15 years!


Well that's enough information for now.  Again, there is just sooooo much going on in our schools!  You can find our district Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as our individual school Facebook and Twitter account links on our webpage.  Also, please call or email any questions you may have.  We want to make sure you are informed as to what is going on because we know that TOGETHER (parents, schools and community) we make an awesome TEAM focused on meeting the needs of All of our unique learners!

See you all soon!















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