Questions about end of year, etc.
Since my announcement on Wednesday that Gorham's distance learning program will extend through the end of this school year, I've had lots of questions about what the end of the year will look like for students and parents. I don't have a lot of details yet as we are still working those out within the district leadership team, but here is what I can tell you:
- We will have the April break. Distance learning will not be conducted during the week of April 20, although "Operation Feed Gorham" will still be operational during this time but with a slightly different schedule - we will be putting out meals on Tuesday and Thursday of that week rather than MWF...so please note this change for the week of April 20.
- We are working to be creative about how the school year ends. We are contemplating how we are still going to "virtually" do some of the most important things we do at the end of each year via distance. Things like helping our transitioning students transition to new experiences for the coming year. Students who are entering Kindergarten, students who are impacted by the attendance zone shifts, students who are moving from 5th grade to 6th grade, and students who are moving from 8th grade to 9th grade. How do we make sure these transitions are accomplished via distance and how might that impact how we end the school year differently than in the past? The likelihood is high that we will end "formal distance instruction" early (say sometime early June) so that we can spend focused time on these transition activities for students and so that we can spend time working specifically with families who may not have been able to engage as strongly as others in our distance learning programming. This is NOT a decision yet...but know it is something we are currently contemplating. Would love feedback if you have it!
- We are working to make sure we find a way to celebrate our Seniors. Mr. Jandreau is working directly with students and families to brainstorm, problem solve and plan what these celebrations might look like...bottom line - we will do something - so stay tuned on that!
- All distance learning programming will end on June 16th to allow us time to organize and put together specific summer programming that will be needed for our special education students, and for other students who may need additional supports for the families that choose to participate. Depending on where things are with COVID-19 at this time, these summer programs may be via distance learning models or they may be conducted in regular classrooms. We will know more about those details as we approach the month of June.
As things stand right now, we thoroughly understand that what we are offering via our distance learning programs is likely not as effective for most students as what we would otherwise be able to offer via our traditional methods. That being said, we are going to be creative in how we end the school year virtually, how we offer summer programing for all students and families, and how we open the school year next year in such a way as to ensure we are able to bring every student back up to where they need to be by the end of the 2020-21 school year.
I also wanted to share a quick video from a social worker in Cape Elizabeth that is specifically geared towards helping parents to talk with their children about the reasons behind the need to extend distance learning programs through the end of the year and what that means to them. A GREAT VIDEO...worth a watch and not too long - promise!
Spring Athletic Seasons Are Canceled...but work is not done.
Maine Principal's Association made the difficult choice yesterday to cancel spring athletics for 2019-20. Our own Athletic Director wrote a very nice letter and released to all parents on this topic. That letter is LINKED HERE. I would encourage folks to review this letter and reach out to Mr. Spear with any questions you may have. I am aware that our spring coaches are working on ways to ensure that just because the season is canceled, the work is not done. Coaches are reaching out to spring athletes and talking about things they can do to remain sharp in their game and I know that Mr. Spear is working on creative ways to celebrate our senior spring athletes as well.
Grading and Reporting (6-12)
Since my announcement on Wednesday that our distance learning programming will be extended through the end of the 2019-20 school year, I've also gotten lots of questions about grading and reporting practices and what that will look like moving forward over the longer term.
I will share that at this point we are focused on how to appropriately end the 3rd quarter in such a way that does not "punish" students for the extremely unusual way that we ended that quarter. These processes are being finalized this week and will be communicated to you by your building principals in grades 6-12.
Once this has been solidified, we are also talking about how grading and reporting will be done for the remainder of the school year. Again, we are meeting today and over the course of next week on this topic and will have a solid plan ready to communicate to families by end of next week. The overall objective will be to ensure that however we might temporarily "tweak" our grading and reporting systems that these systems allow teachers to continue to provide timely and specific feedback to students on their work, that any grades assist teachers and students in better understanding what skills/standards they have met, and what skills/standards they still need work on and that this system does not unduly disadvantage students who may be experiencing our distance learning programming in very different ways depending upon circumstances that are beyond their control.
Not an easy balance for sure...but one that we will strive to create for our students over the course of the 4th quarter.
As we finalize these details, we will communicate them to you by sharing updated learning plans for each grade level. Those were the "companion documents" I shared earlier. When they are revised, I will re-share so you have this important information at your fingertips.
Upcoming School Committee Meetings (Budget Related)
Two upcoming budget related meetings this coming week. The first will be a budget workshop meeting to be held on April 13, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. via zoom. CLICK HERE for the agenda and link information.
The second will be a special meeting on April 15, 2020 where the School Committee will vote to approve (or not) of the proposed FY 21 school budget. CLICK HERE for the agenda and link information.
As a reminder you can always view all board meeting packet materials by CLICKING HERE.
Additionally, we will be having a Funding Committee meeting on April 13 at 8:30 a.m. You can CLICK HERE for the agenda (which will have zoom connection information on it). Just look for the April 13 meeting folder and click in and go from there. I will make sure all materials are in that folder by Sunday afternoon.
If anyone ever has any questions about how to access School Committee meeting information - please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can help you to locate any information you seek online.
Upcoming Dunk and Discuss Zoom Meeting
I have had several parents join me recently for some great discussions on our Dunk and Discuss meetings...typically these meetings are going for just 30 minutes or so...its a great way to login, get your questions answered and share feedback, etc. If you are interested...next one is coming up on April 14 at 6:00 p.m. Please join me! Here's the link: https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/181599688
BIG THANK YOU
Just wanted to take a moment to send a "shout out" to those continuing to serve our community via Operation Feed Gorham. Our School Nutrition workers, and the bus drivers and ed. techs that are supporting them as well as our program directors who are leading this effort...you are all ROCK STARS in my opinion, and I just wanted to make sure everyone knew that!
Of course we could change that apron to say teachers, students and parents too!
A Reminder to Keep Sharing the GOOD!
Just a reminder to keep sharing the good stuff that is happening across Gorham during these difficult times because it is important for us all to know that indeed - THESE GOOD THINGS ARE HAPPENING! We've created two hashtags on twitter for folks to share photos and videos that can be retweeted and shared more broadly. Those two hashtags are #Gorhamlearningtogether and #separatedbutnotdivided. Feel free to use them! We want to see the awesome stuff happening because WE MISS YOU!
As a way to share some of the "good"...I wanted to share this video created by GMS teachers for their students. If you have seen it already - did you realize it was the GMS chorus signing in the background? HMMM - make sure to have your tissues handy! Its a good one! Here's the link:
If you aren't already following the district twitter account, you can find it at @hperrysup. I'll be sure to keep on posting and re-tweeting those awesome stories. I continue to be so thoroughly impressed with our students, our staff and our parents as we support each other through these difficult times! I mentioned one of my favorite quotes earlier - you know the one..."What comes out of you when you are squeezed is what is inside of you." Well - I know what is "inside" of Gorham...and I am so proud to continue to serve this community!
Enjoy your weekend! Unplug, be safe and be well!