Friday, April 30, 2021

April 30 Blog Post

I know for some of you the April break felt like an eternity, while for others, it probably felt too quick...but I have to tell you that I was VERY HAPPY to see our students returning to school this week even if in a big of a "staggered" type of format.  I met many a GHS student in the hallways on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week that seemed very happy to be back to school after two weeks of remote learning and then a break.  A few event old me they were happy to be back in school, but shhhhh, I'm sure they'd like to remain anonymous since that may not be considered "cool"! ☺. 

Yesterday was the big day for our K-8 students, all of whom returned back to school at the same time for the first time all year!  I can't even begin to describe the positive energy that was in each of our K-8 buildings yesterday!  I suppose it can best be described as a high energy buzzing sensation.  You simply had to walk through the hallways to literally HEAR the excitement and learning!  Pictures surely do speak 1,000 words, but even the pictures below don't adequately share that feeling...it was most definitely great to have our students back!

Things certainly went well for our 2nd "First Day of School" this year.  There are still a few bugs to work out, but we'll do that work today and be ready for 4 full days of exciting instruction next week across our K-8 schools!  

Before I move on to the informational part of this blog - I just want to give a quick shout out of THANKS to our K-8 staff and our K-8 parents!  What a team! Its going to be a great six weeks of school between now and June 10! GO RAMS!

A FEW COVID RELATED UPDATES/REMINDERS AND ONE NEW GREAT RESOURCE...

Just a few quick updates/reminders in bulleted form for brevity!

*  Reminder - Parents no longer need to click SUBMIT on their daily health screeners UNLESS there is an identified symptom.  We still would ask parents to review symptoms daily with each child, but if there are no issues...there is no need to submit the form.  If a symptom is detected, please hit submit, Keep your child home and we will know to follow up.  

* Gov. Mills recent announcements regarding masks have created some questions regarding mask wearing.  To simplify things, the most recent rule changes have really brought us full circle back to the same rules we followed this past fall.  Masks must be work indoors at ALL TIMES (unless eating).  If outside, and 6ft of physical distance can be assured, masks may be taken off (example:  planned mask breaks supervised by teachers/school staff).  Because we can't guarantee 6 ft of distance at all times during recess due to the nature of play that we believe is very important for our children, we will ask children to keep their masks on during recess.  However, we will create a space on each playground where children know that they can go to be six feet apart and remove masks if they'd like to do so.  

* WE NEED EVERYONE'S HELP to keep our schools open!  I know I repeat this often, but it's because it is the truth.  We really do need everyone's help to keep our school's open.  Just one positive case in an elementary classroom can now have much larger implications for required quarantines for other students.  Please do your best to assist and make sure to follow the 3 key safety protocols of: (1) properly wearing face coverings, (2) frequently washing/sanitizing hands, and (3) keeping appropriate physical distances.  Finally, please make sure that if your child is experiencing symptoms of COVID 19 - play it safe - keep them home, get them tested and help our schools stay open.  THANK YOU!

* Children and adults ages 16+ are eligible to become vaccinated.  Many local clinics are now opening up to walk in vaccinations.  Please check out the CDC's vaccination site for more information or contact your PCP to see what might be available in the area!  

That's it for the quick updates/reminders regarding COVID 19... now to share a cool new resource!  

Some of our neighbors in the nursing program at USM have worked over the course of the past several weeks to create a list of extra resources for students and caregivers to reference and put them all in one place for everyone to have access to.  Thank you to professor Breanne Sanderson and to the nursing students at USM for sharing this great resource with our families!  We do LOVE OUR HUSKIE PARTNERS!

Please check it out - Here's the Link:


UPDATED FAQ SHEET ON J&J VACCINATION

I just thought that the recent "pause" and then "unpause" of the J&J vaccination might have caused some folks to be a little nervous about vaccinations in general.  First, to be clear - it was ONLY the J&J vaccination that was paused by the CDC and this was only done out of an extreme abundance of caution.  Pfizer and Moderna have had no such issues and the J&J vaccination is now back out there and available for use.  

That being said, I received through our friends at the Gorham Fire Department an updated Fact Sheet on the J&J vaccination that answers many questions folks may have regarding the reasons for the pause and the fact that the J&J vaccination has been determined to be safe to continue to use.  I figured I'd share the resource for those that are interested as it really is a great ONE AND DONE COVID 19 vaccination option.

Here's the Link to the Fact Sheet:


LOOKING AHEAD - A FEW QUICK PIECES OF INFORMATION FOR 2021-22

First, a quick reminder that you can find the 2021-22 School Calendar on our website.  I've LINKED IT HERE for your convenience!

I also wanted to re-emphasize to all of you that (barring a significant change that I do not anticipate occurring at this time) WE WILL BE OPENING ALL SCHOOLS TO FULL DAY, 5 DAY PER WEEK INSTRUCTION THIS FALL.  I am currently working with the Pandemic Advisory Committee, the District Leadership Team, and others to re-draft our Pandemic Operations Plan with the goal of sharing this information sometime before school lets out this year so that parents know what to expect for the coming year.

I've also had several parents ask about remote learning options for the 2021-22 School Year.  We WILL be offering remote learning options for students across grades K-12 next year, but we will be limiting student participation in our fully remote learning options to only those who go through a referral process.  The referral process will start with a parent request, but then will go through a process either via Special Ed., 504, or RTI to determine whether approval of a fully remote program is in the educational best interest of the student.  Details of how this will work will be coming out over the course of the next few weeks...so please stay tuned!

REMINDER!  NEXT WEEK (May 3 -7) IS TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK!


It has been a difficult year for everyone...no question there...but I can tell you from watching and supporting the work of our teachers day in and day out over the past year that they have all given 150% of themselves to make sure our Gorham students are engaged and successfully learning.  I would encourage you to think of ways to celebrate our teachers and to show them just how much we care.  It can be something small like an email or a thank you note or it could be something big like a paid vacation to Hawaii ...WAIT ...NO...JUST KIDDING ON THAT ONE...but certainly public thank you messages or just a pat on the back (from a distance) and a smile when you see them at Hannaford, etc.  Teacher Appreciation Week is always a great time to show our appreciation for teachers.  This year more than any other, they really kind of NEED IT!  What a BOOST it would be to help get us all positively through to the end of the 2020-21 school year on a strong and successful note!  GO RAMS!

CONGRATULATIONS TO TWO GMS TEACHERS RECENTLY HONORED

I recently received the following TWO messages honoring TWO of our incredibly talented teachers at GMS with an award...just sharing their well deserved accolades below:

Message #1:

It is my pleasure to inform you that Terri Dawson has been selected for the Philip Marcoux Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to teaching and learning science. Each year the Maine Science Teachers Association selects a non-formal science education professional, from our list of nominees, who exemplifies leadership in science education.
The Philip Marcoux Award is designed to recognize non-formal science education professionals who work outside the formal classroom setting and who:
makes continuous and enduring contributions to science education;
demonstrates a capacity for creating and implementing successful science education-related activities;
shows creative approaches to improving student achievement in science;
makes a permanent contribution to the Maine Science Teachers Association by integrating with national initiatives, promoting the science education profession, or providing training and resources to other science education professionals.

Sincerely,
Tonya Prentice

Message #2:

It is my pleasure to inform you that Angela Gospodarek has been selected for the Louis P. Lambert Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to teaching and learning science. Each year the Maine Science Teachers Association selects a teacher, from our list of nominees, who exemplifies leadership in science education.
The Louis P. Lambert Award is designed to recognize a public or private school teacher who:
inspires student achievement in science in a caring, compassionate manner;
shows creative approaches in linking student learning to the Science Content Standards of the Maine State Learning Results and Maine’s Curriculum Framework for Mathematics and Science
makes continuous and enduring contributions to science education by integrating with local and state initiatives, promoting science education, and providing training or resources to other science teachers.

Sincerely,
Tonya Prentice

CONGRATULATIONS to both of these incredible teachers on receiving these well deserved honors!

"VOICES OF HOPE" AIRING THIS SATURDAY ON CHANNEL 13 AT 7:00 P.M. PLEASE TUNE IN!

I am thrilled to invite you to watch this 12 part documentary beginning on Saturday. Some GHS students, staff, and Assistant Superintendent Record have been involved in a regional non-profit called SEED (Students Empowered to End Dependency), which is an effort by students and adults in five area school systems to develop methods to elevate messaging about chemical dependency. The five participating systems are Gorham, Bath, Scarborough, Windham, and Yarmouth. The efforts of this group have led to the creation of a 12 part documentary series called Voices of Hope...The Rugged Road to Recovery. I have included a flyer below with more information and here also is the website https://voicesofhopeandrecovery.org/

In particular I want to highlight the contributions of the following people:

Emily Duncan, Senior, Special Effects Opening Sequence
Katy Morin, Senior, Production Support & Transcription
Adam Parvanta, Technology Support
Ryan Chicione, JMG Specialist

Here's the link to the full informational flyer and Here's the image:


WELLNESS TIP - THE SERENITY OF GARDENING!

I was just recently breezing through some wellness information sent out to us by the Maine Department of Education and noticed this information on gardening.  I thought others might be interested as well...Maine is such a perfect setting for gardening and it can be a great family activity for sure!  Check out the information below and maybe try planting a little this spring!  Its good for the environment, and it is good for the soul!  Here's the info:

The days are much longer, the temperatures are warming, trees are budding, the birds are singing and flowers are starting to bloom. All these signs of spring most of us look forward to after a long winter in Maine. Now people are taking to the outdoors to enjoy the benefits of sunlight, nature and spring activities including gardening. First thoughts when we hear gardening, are growing flowers to enjoy and fruits and vegetables to consume. However, there are so many more health and wellness benefits to gardening that people of all ages and in any location can enjoy. Read about the 10 Surprising Ways Gardening Is One of the Healthiest Things You Can Do at www.TheHealthy.com.  

Gardening A picture containing text, plant, different

Description automatically generatedis one activity that sprouted, bloomed and grew into an even more popular individual, family and school venture last year amid the pandemic. It doesn’t matter where a person lives, it is possible to enjoy the health and wellness benefits of gardening. What kind of garden to grow? Some enjoy vegetable, fruit and/or herbs, while others might prefer flowers, shrubs and landscaping or “yardscaping”.  Regardless, it is beneficial to all aspects of one’s health.  If you’ve never tasted garden-fresh food, you will be amazed by the sweet, juicy, robust  flavors and vibrant textures. There’s absolutely nothing quite like fresh from the garden foods, especially if you grow them yourself—which you can do! Read more from The Almanac...

There are volumes of information available on the internet, in bookstores and libraries on all types of gardening.  We have shared just a few resources to get you started or enhance your existing and growing prowess.

Looking for more information and/or resources? Visit these websites...


That's it for this week!  In closing...I once again wanted to THANK EVERYONE for their continued patience and flexibility as we have worked to implement our new 4 day per week model for students in grades K-8.  We are looking forward to a strong and positive end of the 2020-21 school year across grades K-12.  We have much to do, and much to celebrate together!  GO RAMS!


















Friday, April 16, 2021

April 16 Blog Update

We've completed week #30 of instruction in the 2020-21 pandemic year of learning here in Gorham.  This week was definitely NOT as fun as previous weeks because all of our students were learning remotely.  We certainly all made the best of it and as you can tell from the picture below - although our teachers were working hard - they certainly missed having their students in the classroom with them...


So much so that perhaps a few of them might have allowed their students (and themselves) to be just a little more SILLY during their online classes - like this elementary teacher and her kindergarten students....


I am thinking that when Webster's Dictionary adds some of our new pandemic language in there like "Zoom Fatigue"...pictures like this might be used to assist in describing it! ☺

All in all...week #30 was challenging but as we always do here in Gorham, we made the best of it and focused on making sure the needs of our students were met - even though they weren't right there in front of us.  We are all so very much looking forward to their full return to 4 day per week instruction after the April break!  More on that later.

Before I get into my regular informational update, I wanted to share a special message from Assistant Superintendent Dr. Chris Record...

Dear Gorham parents & community,

Just last evening I was named the new Superintendent of Cape Elizabeth Schools beginning in July. While very excited for this next chapter of my professional journey, I am also struck with a deep sadness for leaving Gorham after 13 wonderful years with students, staff, and all of you kind and committed parents. Gorham is a special place because of the people that live here and work here. I recognized this way back in 2008 when I was lucky enough to become principal of GHS. What drew me to Gorham was the very real sense that parents, staff, and the community at large  truly cared about students and about each other. This has been proven time and time again through many triumphs by students and staff alike, as well as a few tragedies.  Gorham is an amazing community.

As I moved to the assistant superintendent role, I learned so much more about this wonderful district. One of the true blessings of my role is that it runs the gamut from stopping into a vibrant kindergarten classroom to standing on the stage congratulating seniors as they take those last few steps as our students. In fact, it struck me recently that the class of 2021 were in kindergarten when I began in Gorham. I guess we are both graduating in a way.

I have so many memories of my time here and so many people to thank.  I have been truly blessed to be surrounded by exceptional talent and kind-hearted people. I have been amazed by the commitment to excellence that is shared across our school system and by all of you wonderful parents and community members.

In closing, I know I am leaving Gorham in wonderful hands, from kindergarten all the way through Adult Ed. The District Leadership Team and Heather are truly outstanding and they really do care so deeply for all of the students and all of the staff. Thanks again for your commitment to education and for supporting our schools. I know this year has been extremely challenging for all of us and especially parents. I see brighter days ahead. I will never forget my time here. Go Rams!!!

With great affection and appreciation,
Chris


Now onto the updates...

APRIL BREAK IS UPON US...ONE MORE IMPORTANT REMINDER ABOUT TRAVEL!


I know many families are traveling this coming week.  I want to reemphasize the importance of following travel safety protocols in order to ensure you don't bring back "unwanted COVID-related baggage" upon your return.  You can refer to my April 6 blog for a more narrative version, but I thought I'd offer up a quick travel guide chart from the Maine Department of Education for a quicker overview and a more condensed version of the requirements.  CLICK HERE to review the travel guide chart.  

Bottom line, PLEASE BE SAFE OVER THE BREAK!  We want everyone to be able to return to school safely after the break!  We don't get enough time with all of you as it is, and we definitely DO NOT want to see our students less as a result of having to quarantine if it can at all be avoided!  So, over the break, please, please, please do what you can to continue to follow best practice safety protocols: (1) wear a mask, (2) wash/sanitize your hands frequently and (3) keep your physical distance!  THANK YOU for all that you have done, for all you are doing, and all you will continue to do to remain focused COVID 19 safety as a community!   

UPCOMING CHANGE IN DAILY HEALTH SCREENING PROTOCOLS AFTER APRIL BREAK
This past week I met with members of our district leadership team and our school nurses to discuss the effectiveness of our daily health screening protocols as they currently exist and to consider whether or not we wanted to make adjustments and changes to these protocols in order to improve overall safety for our students and staff.  What we found is that although these daily screeners were very beneficial as we opened the school year in educating families about what to look for and how to communicate with the schools when certain symptoms occurred, they have (to put it delicately) lost their effectiveness.  We are finding that the number of parents who are not completing these forms daily is increasing, which is significantly increasing the time that is spent each morning by our nurses and clinic aids in calling these families to verify no symptoms before allowing students into classrooms.  Unfortunately, we are also finding that the honest responses to this daily survey is also beginning to wane, which results in more possibly symptomatic students being allowed into classrooms because nurses and other staff are having to focus on simply following up with parents who didn't complete the survey to begin with.

The Maine Department of Education COVID safety protocols require that a daily screener be provided to all families, but they DO NOT require that the school collect the information daily. We did some research to see what other neighboring systems are now doing and found that most of our neighbors have abandoned the requirement to send the data to the school daily and instead they are sending the daily screener out and then asking parents to only report if there are symptoms.  This practice allows their nurses and clinic aids to focus in on working with families who indicate symptoms exist, to follow up more quickly with families whose students are absent, and to be more available to assist teachers with identifying students who may be in school with symptoms.

Therefore, beginning on Monday, April 26, 2021 we are adjusting our daily screening requirements to the following expectations:

1.  Daily screening questions will still be emailed to each family each morning as a reminder to conduct screening at home before students are sent to school daily.

2.  Parents DO NOT need to send survey results to the school UNLESS symptoms are detected.

3.  If symptoms are detected, parents are asked to submit the survey, keep their child home and to call the school immediately to report symptoms.  

We hope this change in protocols will continue to provide a daily reminder to families to complete the daily health screener and check their children for symptoms each and every day.  This remains a very important part of our safety practices.  We also hope this change will allow our school nurses to follow up more quickly with parents who have questions about symptoms and what to do to ensure their child's safety and the safety of others.  If you have questions, please reach out to your child's Principal for more information.  THANK YOU!

GORHAM SCHOOL COMMITTEE APPROVES PROPOSED FY 22 BUDGET
On Wednesday night (April 14) the Gorham School Committee voted unanimously to approve of the proposed FY 22 School Budget.  You can view the meeting by CLICKING HERE (budget conversation begins at the 1 hr. 21 minute mark).   But for the "cliff notes" version...I've provided highlights of the proposed FY 22 budget below.  Please know much more information will be coming as we get closer to the Town Council Vote and to the Public Referendum.

It is important to know that the proposed budget was built to bring us SAFELY back to 5 full days per week of instruction beginning in the fall of 2021, as well as to meet the following FOUR budget priorities:

1. Ensuring we are PREPARED for the already identified, and possibly yet unknown impacts of COVID 19 upon our schools.

2. Maintaining and strengthening our TECHNOLOGY infrastructure and  providing ongoing professional development for staff.

3. Maintaining and strengthening our CURRICULUM and SUPPORT programming for students across grades K-12. and

4. Addressing our overall FACILITIES needs. 

The budget that was approved last night by the school committee proposes a total budget amount of $44,568,143.00.  This is an overall increase over FY 21 of $1,853,688.00 or 4.34%.  The projected impact to the local mil rate (based upon a property tax base increase estimated at $15,000,000.00) is an increase of $0.59 on the mil which is an increase of 4.68% over last year's mil impact.

It is important to note that with contractual obligations and increases to health insurance rates projected for the coming year, maintaining the "status quo" for staffing alone would have increased our FY 21 budget by $1.3 million dollars.  This budget is also impacted by increased costs to support our Capital Improvement and Facilities Investments, and increased costs associated with meeting needs in the area of Special Education Programming.  

As mentioned earlier, much more specific information will be forthcoming as we prepare for next steps in the budget approval process.  Those next steps include the following:

*. Joint Budget meeting with the Town Council - May 11, 6:30 p.m.
*. Town Council Vote on Proposed FY 22 Budget - June 1, 6:30 p.m.
*. Public Referendum Vote on Proposed FY 22 Budget - June 8

As a reminder, folks can view all of our budget workshop meetings that led to the development of this budget by CLICKING HERE (scroll to bottom of page to see listing of meetings).  

We are working on putting together the Town Council Budget Booklet now and once that is completed we will post it to our website for public viewing.  Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have.  

RECENT K-12 PARENT OPEN FORUM VIDEO
Thank you to the 60+ parents who participated in Tuesday's open forum!  It was extremely informative with lots of great TIMELY questions and answers.  For those of you who were unable to attend - good news!  You can watch the recording!  The meeting was 1.5 hours long, but at 1.5 speed...you can still get all the good stuff in 30-40 minutes!  Worth the time!  Check it out if you haven't already by clicking on the link below:


SPECTATORS NOW ALLOWED AT GHS OUTDOOR ATHLETIC EVENTS!
Just wanted to make sure folks knew we were now allowing spectators as GHS outdoor athletic events.  Of course there are still some limits and definitely some safety rules in place that individuals must follow in order to allow this to occur.  We ask individuals who come to watch these events respect these rules so that we are able to continue to allow spectators!  CLICK HERE to view our new COVID 19 Spectator protocols for spring, 2021.  We hope folks SAFELY enjoy watching our incredible students do what they love to do!  Represent our schools proudly and compete!  GO RAMS!

GORHAM MIDDLE SCHOOL TRANSITION PLANS

As I have for the past several blogs, I'm continuing to share transition planning for each of our schools as we work hard to end the year positively and ensure our students are ready for the coming year of learning.

I am going to focus first on plans at GMS to assist 5th graders who will be transitioning to 6th grade next year.  Those activities include:

1. Vertical Conversations 5th and 6th Grade Teachers-Friday, April 9

Groups will talk about curriculum gaps and get recommendations on the most essential 

skills to teach for the remainder of the year

Math (60 min.) 12:00-1:00 (The team will need to refer to the REVEAL curriculum)

ELA (45 min.)  1:15-2:00

 

Prework

  • 5th Grade Teachers should record which curriculum topics / standards have been taught and which ones have not yet been taught.

  • 6th Grade Teachers should identify which curriculum topics / standards are the most important prerequisite skills for 6th grade success


2. 5th Grade Classroom Visits-Month of May

Mr. Smith will set up times with classroom teachers. Admin and student supports will attend as available. 


3. Parent Slide Show and Virtual Building Tour: On May 10th, GMS will be sending information to 5th grade parents through the use of a presentation. Additionally, a virtual GMS building tour will be shared with students and parents.

4. Teacher Team Video and/or Slideshow: By May 28 teams will provide a short slideshow or video or BOTH with introductions of each staff member that will be shared by the student’s advisor. Presentation will include information that would normally be shared during step up day such as materials lists, links to webpages or any other information you’d like to pass on. 

5. Virtual Q & A for Parents: On May 13th at 6:00 pm with Mr. Donahue and Mr. Smith https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/87064718993

6. End of Year Celebrations: During the first 2 weeks of June, elementary schools will provide 5th graders a virtual end of year celebration.  

7. Student Schedules: Advisors will have student schedules by June 4th. This will give them time to input emails and create Google Classrooms.

8. Placement Email to Parents: On June 7th, a placement email will be sent home to the parents notifying them of their child’s classroom placement for the 2021-2022 school year. 

9. Advisory Google Classroom: Advisors will create a Google Classroom, with codes to join, to be shared with students and parents on June 7th when notifying parents of placement and advisory. Teacher team videos and/or slideshows will be shared for students to access in the google classroom.

10. Virtual Step Up with Advisor: Tuesday June 8th at 9 am will be a virtual step up experience for all GMS students including 5th graders transitioning to 6th. This will consist of advisors meeting their advisees through Google Meets and sharing team information with them. Step up day draft.

Current 6th and 7th grade students will also be participating in the planned "Step up Day" events on June 8. Additionally, GHS has worked closely with GMS to provide the following transition activities (some of which have already occurred):

- March 2, 2021 at 6:00 - 8th to 9th Grade Parent Night


- March 26, 2021 - 8th Grade Transition Activity


- March 26, 2021 - GHS Course Registration Info to 8th Grade Parents


- May 12, 2021 at 2:45 - PLC- 8th Grade Teacher Conversations w/ 9th Grade Teachers


- June 9, 2021 at 5:00 - 8th Grade Celebration


Finally, Mrs. McCloghry (our 8th - 9th grade transition specialist) has also created the following resource sheet for families of students in the 8th grade who are transitioning to GHS this fall:


Class of 2025 Transition Activities Summary Sheet


AS ALWAYS - if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to GMS Principal Quinton Donahue (quinton.donahue@gorhamschools.org) or GHS Principal Brian Jandreau (brian.jandreau@gorhamschools.org).  They will be more than happy to assist you!

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED TO ASSIST WITH LUNCH DUTIES

The Gorham Schools are a small yet powerful cadre of volunteers who are willing to help out at our K-8 schools during lunch periods.  We are looking for 2-4 folks per school who would be willing to commit to a day or two per week to come in and help sanitize desks and table tops in between our lunch sessions.  If this sounds like something you'd be willing to do...please reach out to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Chris Record at chris.record@gorhamschools.org with your contact information and school preference.  We will need all volunteers to participate in a quick training program prior to being eligible to enter the buildings for this specific purpose.

We will be seeking to open up volunteers more broadly in our schools for the fall of 2021...so if you are interested in those opportunities...please stay tuned and we'll reach out to do some recruitment closer to the end of this school year!

A SHOUT OUT TO OUR INCREDIBLE PARTNERS AT GORHAM RECREATION!

I received the following message from a Gorham parent the other day...

Hello,
I know you are inundated with issues right now but I am wondering if there are any plans to honor the Gorham Rec staff who have so wonderfully helped keep the kids who are  enrolled there up to speed with completing homework and learning?  I have been amazed at their steadfastness, flexibility, and ability to keep homework fun, provide access to computer class meets, work with special ed needs and keep smiling all year.
I think it would be important to give them a round of applause the same way we do for the bus drivers, lunch staff, etc.
  

I could not agree more!  Please consider this a "shout out" from the Gorham Schools to our incredible partners in the Gorham Recreation Department.  This year they have helped us so much!  They've helped to fill a void in child care programming, they have continued to provide after school programs, they have helped get the Gorham Outdoors Club up and off the ground, they are helping us provide summer programming to students and they have even given up space in the Shaw gym to allow our GHS students to come to school in our hybrid model this year!  THANK YOU GORHAM REC!

Its just one more example of how this community works to support each other!  It truly takes a village...and we have an AWESOME ONE here in Gorham!  GO Gorham Rec! GO RAMS!

IN CLOSING...

I first want to say CONGRATULATIONS to my work partner of the past five years.  


Chris, we have been through so much together - you and I - and we will all be sad to see you leave Gorham at the end of this school year.  But we know that Cape Elizabeth is getting an incredible leader and that you will be an incredible Superintendent of Schools!  Best of wishes in your new and exciting leadership endeavors!

Parents of students in grades K-8 should be receiving letters from your building principals today outlining what to expect upon return from the April break as we begin implementation of our 4 day per week model of learning.  Students in grades K-8 will return to school from the break on Thursday, April 29.  GHS students, I look forward to seeing you when you return to our hybrid model of learning on Monday, April 26.  

As we enter the April break...I just want to say one more time how PROUD I AM to continue to serve this incredible community!  Gorham is indeed a special place!  We have accomplished so much this year...with more work to do!  

I know I speak for myself and for the staff across all our schools when I say that I am very much looking forward to our return from the break, to getting our students back into our classrooms and to seeing our K-8 students more frequently in our new 4 day per week model!  This new model won't be perfect, and I'm sure there will be "kinks" to work out as we go...but please know we are 150% dedicated to making sure this school year ends positively for our students, that our students are well prepared for success in the coming year and that our schools remain the incredible positive learning environments they have come to be known by our community!  

As we take a moment to rest before preparing for the final positive "sprint" to the 2020-21 school year "finish line"... I want to end by sharing some quotes that help me to understand the importance of perseverance and hope as we continue to navigate the COVID 19 Global Pandemic together.  Proud to be a GORHAM RAM!  HAVE A GREAT BREAK EVERYONE!  SEE YOU WHEN WE RETURN!
















Friday, April 9, 2021

April 9 Blog Update

Finishing up our Twenty Ninth week of face to face instruction for students within our hybrid model and what a week it has been!  Ample challenges certainly lie ahead.  But there are so many things to celebrate as well - even in the face of adversity!  This blog update will talk about all of the above, but let's be sure to start with the good stuff - cause there is plenty of that!  

First, I want to say THANK YOU to the staff at Great Falls Elementary School.  On Monday Dr. Record and I took the opportunity to give Principal Fortier and Assistant Principal Etienne a break as we took over the Principal and Assistant Principal role for the day.  What fun!  Such an incredible staff, and awesome students.  Here's a few pictures that I hope catch the spirit of the day!


Of course all of our schools are incredible schools filled with incredible staff and talented students!  As the image below from one school's bulletin board demonstrates...we all have much to be happy about even as we navigate our challenges together!


Now on to the update "stuff"...

A MOVE TO REMOTE LEARNING FOR APRIL 12-16

Hopefully folks were able to view my video message from yesterday announcing a move for the Gorham Schools to full remote instruction for the week of April 12 -16.  I've had several folks ask that I also put the message into writing.  I thought it would be important to do that in this blog and be clear about the rationale for decision making and what this decision means for our 4 day per week implementation plans moving forward.

First, it is important for you all to have the background to my decision making.  Since Friday, April 2, we have had 5 positive cases of COVID 19 associated with GHS, 4 cases associated with GMS, 4 cases associated with Great Falls, 2 cases associated with Village and 1 case associated with Narragansett.  These cases were all student related cases.  Of these cases, 11 have had close contacts associated with our schools that have impacted almost 300 students and over 20 staff across our schools.  Of the 20 staff that were impacted, 6 were staff members who were scheduled to receive their second doses of COVID 19 vaccinations, but because of their close contacts and requirements to quarantine, they had to cancel those shots and now will need to wait longer to become fully vaccinated.  There are over 70 teachers across our schools who are still scheduled to receive their second vaccination shot within the next two weeks.

The increases in positive COVID 19 cases in our community among students has been a disturbing trend.

Now, before I go any further, I want to be clear that our schools are safe places in COVID 19 land.  We have proven that time and time again,.  The fact that of the 87 total cases associated with our schools this year - only three were cases that were transmitted in our schools speaks to this point.  This last batch of cases show the same trends...these positive cases are occurring outside in our community, but then are being brought into our schools and impacting our staff and other students from there due to close contacts.  

Since the beginning of the school year, our decision making regarding keeping schools open has always had more to do with our ability to staff our schools than it has had to do with the number of cases in our community.  What has changed is the fact that our staff are now working hard to become fully vaccinated and these recent close contacts have put in that possibility in jeopardy for staff.   I believe it is key that our staff have the ability to become fully vaccinated in order to successfully return to 4 day per week programming for our students after the April break.  If our staff continue to be impacted by these close contacts, it may jeopardize these timelines and our ability to move forward.  

So, although we could open our schools for two days of remote instruction next week as planned, I am reticent to do so as I want to ensure that as many staff as want to get fully vaccinated CAN get fully vaccinated before the April break.  This will allow us to more successfully make the move to 4 day per week programming.  It is important to know that fully vaccinated staff members are not required to quarantine if they are close contacts, however, in order to be considered fully vaccinated staff need to have gone 14 days from their final shot.  If we attempt to go into the 4 day per week model without a large portion of our staff fully vaccinated, my fear is that one or two positive cases of COVID brought into our schools may have the unintended consequence of forcing entire grade levels and/or schools to go to remote programming more often that we have had to thus far this year under our A/B hybrid model, causing our students to lose even more precious time in classrooms.

Bottom line is that we need to go into our four day per week model from a position of strength.  Minimally with as many staff fully vaccinated as possible and preferably with  low numbers of COVID 19 cases in our community.  I can't control the number of cases in our community, but what I can attempt to protect is the ability of our staff to complete their vaccinations by protecting them this coming week from close contacts with what does seem to be an ongoing community surge in positive cases among students.  I can also strongly encourage parents and our community to PLEASE remain vigilant in following COVID 19 safety protocols and in working to prevent the spread of COVID 19 in our community.  This means:

1.  Wearing masks
2.  Washing/Sanitizing hands frequently
3.  Maintaining appropriate physical distance
4.  Avoiding gatherings with individuals who are not fully vaccinated

If you want to help ensure that we are able to move to 4 day per week programming K-8 and keep our schools open in this model for the remainder of the school year - those four things above are the areas that should be focused on moving forward.  Our schools most definitely NEED YOUR HELP.  

THANK YOU!

UPDATED INFORMATION ON K-8 4 DAY PER WEEK PROGRAMMING
I wanted to share some updated summary information regarding the 4 day per week model for parents.  As we continue to work to refine our specific plans (and there is still much work to do)...We will do our best to continue to share details.  I would also STRONGLY ENCOURAGE families who are interested in learning more to attend the K-12 Parent Open Forum scheduled for Tuesday April 13 at 6:00 p.m.  Link to that zoom meeting is also below.  Here are some additional informational resources:

Possible Desk/Chair set ups (these are still being formed and not finalized)

Much more information coming as we continue our planning work!

Here's the information for the K-12 Parent Open Forum:

Join Zoom Meeting https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/84932663463?pwd=YThadytlZ3M1WnBSakUxMUk3cmEzQT09 Meeting ID: 849 3266 3463 Passcode: 198624 One tap mobile: +1-301-715-8592

TRAVELING THIS APRIL BREAK...REMEMBER THE RULES...

In accordance with Maine travel guidelines, any staff or students who travel within the US to any state not on the approved list (CLICK HERE for latest list) they will be required to EITHER

          1. Complete a 10-day quarantine upon arrival in Maine and continue to monitor for signs and           
               symptoms for an additional 4 days OR 
          2. Obtain and receive a negative COVID-19 antigen or molecular (PCR, NAAT, or isothermal) test 
              result within 72 hours of return to forgo the 10-day quarantine. 

Individuals who are fully vaccinated (have had their last shot for at least 14 days) are not required to quarantine or test upon return from travel. 
                 
The Maine CDC has also provided guidance as it relates to international travel. The current risk assessment level for COVID-19 is at 4, or VERY HIGH, for nearly every country. You can review the risk levels by country, here

At this time, all air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight back to in the United States. See Frequently Asked Questions about this requirement for more information. 

Upon return to the United States, staff and students must quarantine. International travelers can return to school after they EITHER

          1. Get tested 3-5 days after travel, and receive a negative test result AND stay home and self-
              quarantine for 7 days after travel, OR
          2. (If electing not to get tested) Do not get tested and stay home for 10 days after travel. 

Please be sure to avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not. 

All non vaccinated members of the household who travel must test or quarantine if over 12 months old. Testing site information for Maine can be found, here. Any person who is quarantining should stay home, and not have in-person contact with others unless there is an emergency. 

Bottom line, PLEASE BE SAFE OVER THE BREAK!  We want everyone to be able to return to school safely after the break!  We don't get enough time with all of you as it is, and we definitely DO NOT want to see our students less as a result of having to quarantine if it can at all be avoided!  So, over the break, please, please, please do what you can to continue to follow best practice safety protocols: (1) wear a mask, (2) wash/sanitize your hands frequently and (3) keep your physical distance! I know we're all tired, but we must keep focused in order to help protect our schools and our neighbors.  THANK YOU for all that you have done, for all you are doing, and all you will continue to do to remain focused on this goal as a community! 

SUMMER PROGRAM PLANNING 


Just wanted to provide an update on summer program planning for K-12 students.  I would encourage parents with questions to reach out to your child's principals for more information.

We currently have several programs we are working on for the summer.  Below is an overview of each:

 K-8 READING AND MATH RTI EXTENDED PROGRAMMING


Program Overview:  Each school, K-8, will be offering RTI reading and math services to allow for continued support toward meeting PLP goals for our most at risk tier III students. One reading, and one math staff member per building, will provide virtual 30 minute sessions to small groups of students Monday thru Thursday, June 14th -July 1st. The ultimate goal of this program is to ensure students most in need, minimize “summer slide” and are best prepared to return to school ready for success.


SUMMER LEARNING & RECREATION PROGRAM for EXISTING K-8 STUDENTS


Program Overview:  This program will provide approximately 90 K-8 referred students (10 per grade level) with a six week face to face learning program supporting students in math, literacy, and SEL each morning and then providing them with fun and engaging recreation activities each afternoon.  The program will run from July 6 - August 13, 2021 three days per week (T,W,TH) from 9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Students will attend to academic and SEL work in the mornings and then transition each afternoon to fun and exciting programs offered by Gorham Recreation! The goal of this program is to ensure students most in need move forward with their learning over the course of the summer and are best prepared to return to school ready for success this coming fall. A flyer with more information is LINKED HERE.


IXL ONLINE READING AND MATH PROGRAM - ALL STUDENTS ELIGIBLE


Program Overview: The online IXL program will allow all families across grades K-8 to access summer online learning utilizing the IXL program in the areas of Math and Reading.  Assistance will be provided in helping families set up support services and addressing any technical issues that may arise, but no teaching staff will be allocated to this service.  The ultimate goal of this program will be to prevent “summer slide” for students so that they are best prepared to return to school ready for success.


SCHOOL NUTRITION SURVEY INFORMATION NEEDED


With changes coming for K-8 students after the break, it is time to update meal delivery service information for the Gorham Schools School Nutrition Program...Please take 5 important minutes to complete the survey linked below!


Survey Link:

https://forms.gle/HBrhg2ZxS5dWwoAX9


CONGRATULATIONS TO GHS SENIOR EMILY PARUK!

Emily will represent. Maine in the National "Poetry Out Loud" Semifinals!  Awesome job Emily!  GO RAMS!


CLICK HERE for a link to the full article in the Portland Press Herald!


GHS NATIONAL HONORS SOCIETY ONLINE OPPORTUNITIES!


Just a reminder that our GHS National Honors Society students have worked hard to create a FREE online tool for younger students to interact with our GHS students in meaningful ways...Check This excellent support program out and feel free to share!


https://sites.google.com/gorhamschools.org/nhs-virtual-fun/home


GREAT FALLS TRANSITION PLANS

This week's transition focus is on Great Falls Elementary School!  As with our other two elementary schools, there are plenty of exciting opportunities planned for the end of the year - all aimed at helping our students and families end this school year strong and be well prepared for success in the coming year!  

CLICK HERE To view the draft plan for Great Falls!

A REMINDER - EVERYONE 16+ NOW ELIGIBLE FOR COVID 19 VACCINATIONS! 


All Mainers age 16+ are now eligible to become vaccinated as of Wednesday April 7, 2021.  

To pre-register for an appointment, go to https://vaccinateME.maine.gov

You may also reach out to your PCP for more information.  CLICK HERE to view a CDC information sheet on COVID 19 vaccines.