Wednesday, August 26, 2020

District Wide Opening Parent Letter 2020-21

 Dear Parents/Guardians,


Welcome back to the Gorham Schools during this historic year!  And what a year it has been!  It feels like just yesterday we were making the difficult decisions to close schools and to turn our entire educational system into a virtual learning model in a matter of two days this past March…but alas…it has been almost five months since then!  WOW!


There is no question this will be an opening of school like no other here in Gorham.   We are opening our schools in an entirely different model, attempting to balance the safety needs of our students, staff and community with meeting the educational needs of our children which we know are best served in an in person environment.  We have put in A TON of work these past few months to try to strike this very delicate balance for our families and I am excited for the re-opening of our schools as I know our staff is as well.


The first day back for group “B” students will be Tuesday, Sept. 8.  The first day back for group “A” students will be Wednesday, Sept. 9.  Because of the Labor Day Holiday on that Monday, group “A”s 2nd face-to-face instruction day that week will be held on Friday, September 11.  A new school calendar showing A and B days is posted on our district website.


Our Remote learning option will also begin for all students who signed up for this program on Tuesday, Sept. 8.  We will be sending out more information to our families participating in this option soon – but TWO important dates to mark on your calendar for now are the two training sessions we have set up for use of our online systems.  One is for K-5 parents /students and the other is for 6-12 parents/students of remote learners.  Here’s the information below to mark in your calendars:


1.    Exact Path In-depth training for K-5 Parents & Students (virtual staff should join)


-        9/1 6pm -7pm



2.    Courseware In-Depth training for 6-12 Parents & Students (virtual staff should join)

-        9/1 7 pm – 8 pm



I wanted to make sure parents are also aware of our new COVID-19 Information and Resources page on our website.  It is right on the main page.  Just go to and then look at the top middle of the page for a tab that says “COVID-19”.  There is A LOT of information out there so we wanted to try and consolidate all the important stuff related to the Gorham Schools in one location…so please check it out.


Start and end times this year will be the same times as last year.  For Great Falls, Narragansett and Village Elementary Schools they are 8:50 a.m. and 3:10 p.m.  For GMS the start time is 8:00 a.m. and end time is 2:20 p.m. and for GHS the start time is 7:50 and the end time is 2:10.  Of course as we work out our new transportation schedules and parent pick up and drop off schedules these times may vary for the first several weeks of school.  I would encourage patience and flexibility as we work through our new processes this year – especially on the transportation front.  Thanks in advance!


We will be posting our new updated A and B grouping bus routes on the district’s website.  You can find them by going to then clicking on “About Us” then clicking on “District Departments” and then clicking on “Transportation”.  I will also send an email message with the direct link when they are ready.  We anticipate being able to get our new bus route information out by Tuesday, Sept. 1 so please stay tuned.


I know many parents are also concerned about extra curricular programs for students.  I will be honest, right now those are a little “up in the air” due to as of yet unresolved issues between the MPA and MDOE/CDC whereby the current MPA guidelines for athletics are not approved by CDC as guidelines that schools can use.   I know that right now the MPA is working diligently with the CDC and MDOE to rectify this situation and to hopefully come up with a way in which fall sports can still occur safely for our students but this may not be possible.  Fundamentally, I want parents to know that in Gorham we believe strongly in the power of offering these important programs to our students.   We should know more by Thursday (8/27) from the MPA, but regardless of that outcome, the Gorham Schools is committed to offering these types of learning experiences to our students in a safe environment.  Therefore, we will either move forward with implementation of MPA guidelines that have been approved by MDOE/CDC (if they can be completed in time) OR we will move forward with a plan to implement our own “intramural” style activities for our students.   One way or the other – we will offer our students these important experiences.  Please stay tuned.


As I mentioned twice to “please stay tuned”…I should probably tell you how best TO STAY TUNED!  First, please make sure you are getting our email messages through the School Messenger system.  You can reach out to your school’s administrative assistants to double check you are in the system if you are not sure.  Second, you should check in on my blog.  You can do that by going to our website ( and once on the main page, go to the top right corner and click on the “Info”  tab.  I might also suggest you like our district Facebook page and follow us on twitter.  You can access both those sites from our district website as well in the top right corner of the front page.


In closing, I just want to say THANK YOU to all our Gorham families, staff and community members for your participation in our planning processes for the re-opening of our schools.  Whenever I sent out a survey, you responded.  Whenever I put out a forum meeting, you attended.  Whenever I said “email me with questions” you did!  As a result of your participation in these planning processes and your willingness to listen, to share ideas and problem solve together, I am confident that our plan to re-open schools is a solid one.  I am confident that our opening will be positive and as Gorham always does…I am confident we will continue to work together to solve any other problems that COVID-19 wants to throw at us!  I remain so very proud to be a Gorham Ram!  GO RAMS!  WE GOT THIS!  SEE YOU SOON!




Heather J. Perry, Superintendent of Schools

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Final Parent Re-Opening Survey and Additional Information

There is no greater adversity we face as a global society, as a nation, as a state and as a community than the current adversity caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.  There are no "playbooks" for how to operate our schools or our communities under the circumstances we now face due to COVID-19.  There is no "right" and there is no "wrong" there are just people trying to do the  best they can to make difficult decisions balancing the need to "return to normal" with the new understanding that our old "normal" will never really return.  Ensuring our students, staff and our community are safe and remain safe has always been a top priority for the Gorham Schools and today's realities make this goal an even larger one.   As Karin Muzumdar-Shaw has said:  "Ultimately, the greatest lesson that COVID-19 can teach humanity is that we are all in this together."  An incredible lesson indeed!

The Gorham School Committee, the Gorham School District Leadership team, our Medical Advisory team, our school based leadership teams and our labor associations have been working non-stop since this past spring to plan for how our schools may re-open this fall under a myriad of ever-changing conditions, rules and guidelines.  As this work continues to unfold, the ground literally changes beneath us.  These are not the easiest conditions within which to make difficult decisions.  This is not an excuse.  It is simply context.  Above all, please know that the groups listed above continue to pour their literal hearts and souls into planning for our schools and continue to do their very best to prioritize the health and safety of our students and staff while balancing the very real economic conditions our families and our communities face during these difficult times.  Gorham has always been a community filled with "big hearted" people.  People who support one another and seemingly become stronger during times of adversity.  I encourage us all to remember our core values and to remember who we are as a community as we continue to navigate these "uncharted" territories together.  WE  ARE GORHAM RAMS...WE ARE RESPONSIBLE, WE ARE RESPECTFUL, WE ARE HONEST, WE ARE COMPASSIONATE, AND WE ARE COURAGEOUS (yes, that is our Code of Conduct).  

I have no doubt that we will get through whatever lies ahead of us as long as we remain true to our beliefs and remember that our children are watching us...let's make sure they learn the lessons we need them to learn about public discourse, about values, and about putting others first.



August 6 School Committee Vote:

At its meeting on August 6, 2020 the Gorham School Committee made three important votes regarding the re-opening of our schools within the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.  The first was a vote to approve of the Gorham Schools  Pandemic Operations Plan (Re-Opening Plan).  The vote was 6-1 to approve with one dissenting vote from SC Member Phil Gagnon.  You can find the full 56 page Re-opening plan by CLICKING HERE or you can also review the Re-opening Plan Executive Summary by CLICKING HERE.  

The second vote was to approve opening Gorham High School under a RED LEVEL Plan.  This vote was 5-2 with two dissenting votes, one from SC Member Phil Gagnon and one from SC Member Darryl Wright.  This motion also allowed for Extra and Co-Curricular programs at GHS to open under the yellow model plans and to delay the first day of school to Sept. 8, 2020.  PLEASE KNOW THAT THE GORHAM SCHOOL COMMITTEE AND THE DISTRICT LEADERSHIP TEAM ARE WORKING NON-STOP TO ADJUST THE YELLOW MODEL RE-OPENING PLAN FOR GHS IN A MANNER THAT WILL HOPEFULLY ALLOW GHS TO OPEN UNDER A YELLOW  PLAN.  THIS WORK IS ONGOING AND WILL BE MORE FORMALLY PRESENTED TO THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE DURING THE WEEK OF AUGUST 17, SO PLEASE STAY TUNED.

The third vote was to approve opening Gorham Schools operating grades K-8 under a YELLOW LEVEL Plan.  This vote was 7-0 with no dissenting votes.  This motion also allowed for the delay of the first day of school to Sept. 8, 2020.


It means that AT THIS TIME,  GHS is slated to open in a fully remote setting while students in grades K-8 will open school attending school 2 days per week as outlined in the yellow re-opening plan.  Additionally, GHS extra and co-curriculars will be allowed to operate using the yellow re-opening model and while maintaining all safety protocols as outlined by our district plans and by the Maine Principal's  Association.  

It also means that all students will begin school  on  Sept. 8, 2020 rather  than the original opening date of August 31 for K,6 and 9 and Sept. 1 for everyone else.  We will maintain originally scheduled Kindergarten screening processes on August 31 and Sept. 1 so those will remain unchanged.

It is our hope that we will be able to revise the yellow plan for GHS to allow for students in grades 9-12  and staff to return to school in some sort of hybrid plan that allows for face to face instruction to occur in conjunction with distance learning.


It is now time for me to send out a  FINAL PARENT SURVEY that will be used to make final staffing and other detail oriented decisions for the re-opening of our schools.  

Please click on THIS SURVEY LINK and complete the survey by Friday, August 14 2020.  The purpose of this survey is to make final determinations for the numbers of students who will be participating in our entirely virtual  learning model for the first semester and to determine final numbers of students who will be participating in face to face instruction for the opening of school assuming all schools will open under a yellow model (again, this will require a reconsideration vote from SC for GHS). Additionally, the results of this survey will be used to determine final transportation routes for our buses.

We ask that parents please complete ONE SURVEY PER STUDENT so families with multiple children will need to complete multiple surveys.  


First, there has been a slight change in timing for our upcoming Q&A sessions.  I've had to delay the Grades 9-12 Staff and Parent Q&A  sessions until Thursday, August 13, 2020.  The full schedule is now below  with links:

Monday August 10, 2020

K-5 Staff Q&A Meeting (10:00 a.m.)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 838 1123 4487

Passcode: 637728

K-5 Parent Q&A Meeting (6:30 p.m.)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 827 2154 3145

Passcode: 569614

Tuesday August 11,  2020

6-8 Staff Q&A Meeting (10:00 a.m.)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 883 7853 4269

Passcode: 521974

6-8 Parent Q&A Meeting (6:30 p.m.)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 879 7505 4787

Passcode: 406969

Thursday, August 13,  2020

9-12 Staff Q&A Meeting (10:00 a.m.)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 825 2040 9379

Passcode: 976452

9-12 Parent Q&A Meeting (6:30 p.m.)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 895 5920 8459

Passcode: 010518

In addition to these VERY IMPORTANT MEETINGS that I would STRONGLY ENCOURAGE ALL STAFF AND PARENTS TO ATTEND, parents should also be aware that we will be sending a Student Handbook out during the week of August 10-14 and will be asking parents and students to review this  handbook between then and the opening of school and to return the signature page to school administration when schools re-open on Sept. 8, 2020.

Finally, I would like parents to be aware that we will be creating "Re-Opening Videos" for each school that outline what to expect for students upon return to school.  These videos will outline  "a day in the life" of students attending school in a Yellow re-opening model.  These videos will be released to parents during  the week of August 24, 2020.

As always - I appreciate everyone's continued patience, understanding and willingness to pitch in to problem solve and work together in a way that will ensure our schools are able to re-open in a positive manner on September 8, 2020.


Friday, August 7, 2020

Update From Last Night's School Committee Meeting

 I will be sending out A LOT more  information later this weekend and on Monday for parents but I wanted to get a quick bit of information out today for folks  to be clear about  what the decision was of the Gorham School Committee last night to re-open schools.  First, you can view the entire 4.5 hour meeting by CLICKING HERE.  Votes related to the re-opening plan were as follows:

Vote #1:  Motion by Kate Livingston, 2nd by Darryl Wright to approve of the Gorham Pandemic  Operations Plan (Re-opening Plan) with the following two revisions:

1.  Add a statement in each Red, Yellow and  Green category that makes clear our goal is to provide 100% of the curriculum even though we may fall short.

2.  Add a statement in the Red and Yellow category  that our preference is to utilize SYNCHRONOUS Learning methods whenever possible.

Motion carried by a vote of 6-1 with Phil Gagnon voting in the negative.

Vote #2:  Motion made by Anne Schools and Seconded by Jen Whitehead to open Gorham High School (grades 9-12) in the Red Model (as described by Principal Jandreau) with Co and Extra Curriculars operating under the Yellow  model and with instruction beginning on Sept. 8.

Motion carried by a vote of 5-2 with Phil Gagnon and Darryl Wright voting in the negative.

Vote #3:  Motion made by Jen Whitehead and seconded by Kate Livingston to open Schools in  grades K-8 in the  yellow model (as outined in re-opening plan) with instruction beginning on Sept. 8.

Motion  carried by a vote of 7-0

Individuals may view the full  re-opening plan by CLICKING HERE. I will  be sending along an  executive summary this weekend.

Finally wanted to remind parents and staff that we have Q&A sessions scheduled for next week Monday Tuesday and Wednesday.  Staff scheduled meetings will be held at 10:00 each day via zoom with K-5 on Monday, 6-8 on Tuesday and 9-12 on Wednesday.   I will send links separately.  Parent scheduled meetings will be held at 6:30 on Monday for grades K-5, 6:30 on Tuesday for grades 6-8 and at 5:30 on Wednesday for grades 9-12.   Zoom information can be found on  our  district website, just go to the  home page and click on the events calendar for links.

That's it for now.  Again, I'll  be sending more information later this weekend and on Monday.  The BIGGEST   next step for parents is to be prepared to respond to a survey that will be sent out on Monday and due on Friday next week.  This survey will  ask you to determine whether you will be sending your children to school in the models described above  or if you will be participating in  the fully virtual model.  The survey will also ask about transportation. 

I know that these decisions have been difficult and  that there is no single  decision that everyone will be pleased with.  These decisions were made in the best interests of our students and staff and  their safety while balancing the needs of our families (and most importantly our students) to return  to school.   I encourage  everyone to be kind to one another and to do what Gorham always does in times of difficulty -join together to support one another in times of need.   

I hope you all have a restful weekend.  We will be back at this important work on Monday.