Dear students, parents and staff,
Before sharing other news I wanted to let you know that after the Commissioner's recommendation late last night and a meeting this morning held by the Cumberland County Superintendents, we have decided to extend our distance learning programming through the to the end of the 2019-20 School Year. You can read the Commissioner's notice by CLICKING HERE.
This was NOT an easy decision and I recognize the difficulties this places upon you as parents and upon our students/staff and community. The fact of the matter is that we are still experiencing a climb in our COVID-19 numbers here in Maine and the reality is that even if we may WANT to come back (and trust me we do), we will not have a well thought out and safe mechanism within which to do so before the end of this school year. Therefore, this decision was made now in order to allow all of us the time necessary to plan for how we will be ending our school year virtually for our students, our staff, and our families in as safe and positive a manner as possible given our current and near future realities.
The first thing I encourage each of you reading this message to do is to first breathe deeply in...and then deeply out. Do that at least five times (I'm not joking here...this works for me, and I've been using it A LOT lately).
Please know that as we move through the remainder of the school year the Gorham schools will continue to focus on what we all need to focus on and that is the wellbeing of our students, our staff, and ourselves. The message continues to be and will remain that the primary focus of the Gorham schools is on the social and emotional health of our students, our families and then only after those things are met, on academic maintenance and growth.
Please know that the District Leadership Team has already been preliminarily planning for the possibility that this extension would occur. We know what this means is that we will need to find a way to do many of the things we did before to end a school year (Scheduling, staffing assignments, classroom assignments, transition activities, celebrations, etc.), virtually. We know this means that parents will continue to have to struggle with day care, and with juggling all the various plates that you currently have in the air for a longer period of time. We know that this means folks will be continue to be uncertain and anxious. And we know we will definitely continue to miss our students. But as we do with every difficult situation here in Gorham, we will problem solve together, we will wrap our virtual arms around one another, and we will find a way to help one another through these difficult times - TOGETHER only as Gorham can!
As we move through the course of the rest of this month and early next month more detailed information will be coming out. If you have any ideas on how best to do some of these traditional end of year tasks online, or more creatively - please share them with your principal and they can share them with the rest of the leadership team. We will continue to adjust and "tweak" our systems to find better balance...and we will make sure we find a way to celebrate the accomplishments of all of our students, our staff, and honestly - the accomplishments of our parents before we close this school year and work to begin a new one.
If you think of nothing else as we continue to move through the remainder of this year - please keep your personal health and the health your children as your ultimate priority. The rest will come! TOGETHER, WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS and be stronger for it as individuals, as teachers, students, parents, as schools, as a district and as a community!
I have mentioned this a few times, but want to be clear for those of you who are concerned about the fact that we are now taking attendance. Please know that the intent of taking "attendance" in our new format has very little to do with "enforcing rules" or making sure students and families are doing what they need to or "punishing" those who are not engaging in our distance learning plans. There is nothing punitive behind this data collection tool.
The reason we are taking attendance it to simply assist us in tracking which students and families may be having the most difficulty engaging in our programming so that we can use this data to better inform programmatic decisions now and in the future.
We realize that not every student or family will be able to engage at the same levels for lots of different and very valid reasons. This is not a statement about whether a student or family is "good" or "bad" but rather - it just is. No one, certainly the schools will question that. There is no shame in that. Each family must find their own balance during these difficult times and the school will find a way to provide supports and adjust programming to match that balance over time.
It is important however that we track this information at least enough to help inform decision making. For example...if I know through our attendance data that it seems that for whatever reason a certain grade level at a certain school is having a more difficult time engaging in learning activities than other grade levels, then I can bring that grade level of teachers together, discuss, problem solve and attempt to adjust. If I know that certain subgroups of students are having more difficulty engaging than others - like students with 504's for example...then I can work to provide additional supports in this area or I can even think about what types of more intensive supports I may need to provide to segments of our student populations when we are finally able to return to school such as summer programming, or specific targeted before or after school programming when school re-starts.
I just wanted to be clear about the purpose of attendance as I know some of you might have felt that it was being taken for other reasons. The reasons we are doing any of this type of data collection isn't to label one student as "good" or another as "bad" or even one family as "good" or another as "bad"...I know that you are all doing the best you can while juggling what seems to be new "plates" in the air every day. Please focus on maintaining what you need to maintain in your family for balance during these times and trust that the school is here for support now, and well into the future as we problem solve and work together to find a way forward that ensures that each of our students remains "Prepared and Inspired" to become their very best version of themselves as they graduate from GHS.
Narragansett Modular Project
The one thing that seems to still be moving along relatively well during our distance learning time is the work on our Narragansett Modular Project. Right now work is focused primarily on electrical and plumbing work and it is moving along nicely. Thought I'd share a few updated pictures for folks to see.
Overall timelines are right for these modular buildings to be ready to open for school in the Fall of 2020. The only thing holding us up right now is planning board approval for our kitchen. The planning board has been working to find a way to meet via distance since the closure of buildings due to COVID-19.
Operation Feed Gorham
Just wanted to share a few "Thank you" notes we recently received from community members in Gorham who are NOT directly related to the schools that we are also assisting through Operation Feed Gorham to provide much needed meals each day. Check out these notes below!
Again, if you are interested in participating in Operation Feed Gorham, no need to complete the survey at this point. Either stop by one of our sites (located at each school other than Narragansett) on MWF from 11:00 - 1:00 p.m. to pick up a meal or email email@example.com.
Opportunity Alliance COVID-19 Infographic
The Opportunity Alliance has put together a nice infographic that I thought would be a helpful reminder to folks. Check it out below!
Gorham Action Team for Youth
If you haven't already been on Facebook and "Liked" the "Gorham Action Team For Youth" - I'd suggest you do! At least a few times per week members of our student supports teams in several of our schools post updated articles and other information that I think many families would find helpful during these difficult times.
Upcoming Zoom Meetings
My "Dunk and Discuss" meeting #3 will be tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Please feel free to join me. No agenda...just time to ask questions, get answers, and share feedback. Here's the link:
The Gorham School Committee's regular meeting is TONIGHT at 7:00 p.m. You can CLICK HERE for the agenda and login information and CLICK HERE for packet information. Here's the link to the zoom meeting itself (you can also watch live on GOCAT):
That's it for tonight...THANK YOU!