Friday, October 25, 2019

Draft K-5 Attendance Zone Changes for 2020-21 Announced

As you are likely all aware, the Gorham School Department has been working over the past several years to address issues of growth at the K-5 levels.  Over the past 5 years we have added just under 300 students to our K-5 schools and as you might imagine, that has caused some significant strain on our existing facilities infrastructure across all three of our K-5 schools.  In that same time frame we have struggled with large class sizes and finding spaces in our buildings not only to house classrooms, but also to house the necessary support programs that are required to operate the high quality educational programs that we do.

Last spring, the Gorham School Committee announced a long-term plan to address these issues which involved the following:

-  Build a $2.8 million dollar "Phase I" modular addition onto Narragansett Elementary School to open in the 2020-21 School Year.

-  Shift attendance zones to reduce enrollments at both Great Falls and Village Elementary Schools (to give room to grow, especially at Great Falls) while pointing additional growth towards Narragansett Elementary School.

-  Plan on a Phase II of a modular expansion at Narragansett Elementary School to occur within 3-5 years and a possible Phase III (If needed) modular expansion to occur within the next 10-15 years at the same site to allow for continued growth in our community.  The intention is that NEITHER of these additional phases will involve another shift of attendance zones.

-  Plan a long term, state approved, capital project to build a new K-5 elementary school on the existing Narragansett site to house future growth within the next 10-15 years and beyond in order to address our community's long term needs at these grade levels.

The first phase of this plan, approved by the voters via referendum in June, 2019, allowed for the construction of our modular expansion (Phase I).  This modular expansion is now under construction and on time to open for the 2020-21 school year with 6 new classroom spaces and a brand new cafeteria space at Narragansett.  These spaces will provide the necessary infrastructure to allow for regular instruction to occur, for lunches and gatherings, as well as freeing up valuable gymnasium space for the delivery of physical education classes.

This is all good news, however there are implications for some of our families that cannot be avoided.  The implications are that in order to carry this plan out, we must shift our attendance zones beginning in the 2020-21 school year.  This means that some families will be moving from their current school zone to a new one in order to make all this work.  We have been working over the past several months to decide where best to place these new boundaries in a way that makes sense not only with our current situation, but with our future situation, some of which cannot be clearly anticipated.

In communications this spring, summer and fall, I predicted we would announce these new lines by the end of October to the public.  This blog post will serve to provide this information to our community.  Please know that all families impacted by these changes have already received a memo from myself and direct communications from our building principals and are aware of the fact that they have been impacted by these changes.  After this public notification Mrs. Remick (Principal at Narragansett Elementary School) and the Narragansett School Family will begin to reach out to new families with a welcome letter and important information about Narragansett Elementary School.  This will begin our transition work together and will be our ongoing focus throughout the remainder of the year with much more to come.

Our Target Populations:

Our current projections show that we are anticipating a total K-5 population of 1356 students for the 2020-21 School Year.  Target populations for all three schools are as follows:

Great Falls - 517 (current population is 580)
Narragansett - 409 (current population is 291)
Village Elem. - 429 (current population is 439)

In order to do this, we had to move our attendance zone lines.  Our current attendance zone map is as follows:

Yellow with green icons are Village Elem. students within the Village Elementary School Zone.  Blue with blue icons are Great Falls students within the Great Falls attendance zone and purple with purple icons are Narragansett students in the Narragansett attendance zone.  These original lines were drawn when Great Falls Elementary School was first opened and we first created our three K-5 community schools back in 2011.  Please note that each icon seen does not necessarily represent individual students.  There are often multiple students represented within each icon.

In order to make the population adjustments needed to meet our target populations, we moved the lines for 2020-2021 to the following:

Once again, the yellow represents the Village Attendance zone, blue is Great Falls and the purple is Narragansett.

These lines were adjusted in a manner that allowed us to meet our intended targets while also considering proximity to schools, the future growth of our communities and using "natural" landmarks and roadways to create new boundaries.

As you can see the largest impact to our attendance zone change will be those families located to the left of Gray Road, seen above as blue icons in the now purple Narragansett attendance zone.

This proposed change requires 84 students to be moved from the Great Falls Elementary School attendance zone to Narragansett Elementary School and 9 students from the Village Elementary School attendance zone to Narragansett Elementary School.  By doing this, we are able to meet our targets for each of our three K-5 Schools, provide for continued reasonable classroom student to teacher ratios and provide all three of our schools room to continue to grow as we predict they will.

Next Steps:

I will be meeting with each school's P.I.E. group to personally share information, answer questions and outline more detailed plans for how to move forward.  Dates for these meetings will be as follows:

*  Great Falls Elementary School - November 5 at 6:00 p.m.
*  Village Elementary School - November 13 at 5:30 p.m.
*  Narragansett Elementary School - November 18 at 6:00 p.m.

Narragansett Elementary School Principal, Cynthia Remick, will send out welcome letters to new families and begin to work with families to transition.  These transition activities will continue to be our focus throughout the remainder of the 2019-20 school year to ensure that families feel welcome at their new school.

The Administrative Team will focus on identifying specific staffing needs and staffing assignments for the new classrooms at Narragansett Elementary School to include support staff and other necessary supports for these new classroom spaces.  These changes will be solidified as part of our FY 21 budget development process.

Transition activities will continue throughout the remainder of the 2020-21 School Year and into the summer of 2021.  Specific K-5 classroom placements will be made for all students across the district by June, 2020 and announced to parents.

In Summary:

The entire Gorham School Department administrative team and staff understands the difficult nature of the change we are undertaking for our K-5 learners and their families.  This is not a change we are making lightly.  These changes are being made to address the very real issues associated with our growing student populations that if left unchecked would result in large class sizes and lack of space to effectively operate our educational programs to the high standards we expect.

All three of our K-5 elementary schools are incredible schools filled with incredible staff who care tremendously about every child that graces our hallways.  Our School Committee, our administrative team, our teachers and our support staff as well as our K-5 families stand ready to support those families impacted by this change as we make these necessary transitions.

If anyone has any questions, I encourage them to reach out directly to me via email ( or via phone (222-1012).