Friday, August 27, 2021

August 27 Blog Update

It has been a great week of preparation with our Gorham Schools staff these past few days!  We had an excellent opening day, lots of training, lots of learning, lots of questions and answers, lots of professional discussions and lots of fun working hard to make sure we are prepared for our students next week!  Here's a few images of some of our opening days with staff:

We absolutely have the best staff around...we are ALL very much looking forward to the return of our students next week!


Just wanted to take this opportunity to remind folks that our buses will be back on the road again starting Monday, August 30!  Let's be sure to plan a little extra time getting to work and make sure to stop for those red flashing lights!  This first week of school, drivers are getting used to runs, parents and students are getting used to pick up and drop off procedures - so let's ALL be a little more vigilant on the roads for the safety of our children!  

A reminder, if you need to access our a.m. bus route schedule, you can go to our website!  I've linked the page HERE for your convenience.  Please be sure to have students ready at their stops at least 10 minutes ahead of time for the first week of school as times may vary while we get used to our new routes.  For the p.m. time frames, we purposefully do not post times as we don't know exactly when buses leave each school in the afternoons, especially at the elementary schools.  If it is helpful to know, we develop all our routes to be no more than 30-40 minutes in length.  We encourage families to be flexible and patient the first week or two.  After that the routes settle in and are much more predictable.  Please know that we take very good care of our students on our buses.  Not that we plan for any missteps, but If a student misses a bus or gets on the wrong one, we will make sure to take loving care of them.  Know that they are safe and well supervised at all times and that we will communicate with you as needed.  If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your school's offices and they can assist.


Just a quick recap for those who just want to make sure you know our opening day you go:

-  Monday, August 30 - Grades 6 & 9 only 

-  Tuesday, August 31 - Grades 1-12 

-  Wednesday, Sept. 1 - Grades 1-12

-  Thursday, Sept. 2 - Grades K-12

-  Friday, Sept. 3 - NO SCHOOL - LABOR DAY WEEKEND

-  Monday, Sept. 6 - NO SCHOOL - LABOR DAY WEEKEND

You can find a more detailed district wide events calendar on our website ( and then you can click on each school to get their specific school events calendars.  As always, if you have any questions, just reach out to your school's office and they'll be more than happy to assist!


Just a strong reminder to families to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take the time to complete the Student Meal Services Benefits Application this year (formerly known as the Free/Reduced Lunch application).  You will likely be getting a paper copy in your opening of school packets, but you can also access a PDF form by CLICKING HERE or you can complete the application entirely online by CLICKING HERE.

Even though approved meals for all students will be free this year WE STILL NEED FAMILIES TO COMPLETE THESE FORMS!  Other important school funding depends on it!  The programs listed below are all funded based on the results of these applications.  If these forms aren't completed, we could stand to lose significant dollars to support our schools (please see a summary below of other funding based on this information).  Please take the few minutes required to complete the forms - EVEN IF - you don't. think you will qualify.  THANK YOU!


I have recently received several questions from parents asking about how we will be dealing with hot days this fall, especially with everyone wearing face masks while indoors and many of our schools NOT having climate control in our classrooms.  

Please know we have well established safety protocols that we will use to determine if our buildings are too hot for instruction to safely take place.  We primarily lean on the utilization of the heat index (see image below).

We use this index to determine when conditions get too hot for students to safely be in our schools.  Similar to snow days, we closely monitor individual conditions across our schools and make determinations based on those conditions.  In the event that we have to release students early from school due to heat (which is most often the case vs. a full cancelation), we will communicate with families ASAP and use our early release procedures for getting students home.

This does remind me to remind folks about snow days too.  WE WILL BE HAVING ACTUAL SNOW DAYS THIS WINTER.  Unlike last year, we do not have an emergency waiver for the number of school days and we are required by law to have 175 student days. The plan at this point is that we have five "snow days" built into our calendar.  We will use these as traditional snow days...then if we go above those days (which we typically don't - but sometimes do) we will use remote learning days so that we do not have to extend the school year into the scheduled summer.  


Just a quick reminder that families can check out our COVID 19 website to get up to date information on active positive cases in our schools.  CLICK HERE to view and stay up to date.  We'll be sure to keep you informed!


The Gorham Schools are electing NOT to begin the school year utilizing pooled testing.  We have made this initial decision based upon the following factors:

-  We do not want to send any messages of "false security" to families who may decide to send students to school if they are sick thinking they will be tested.
-  We want to maintain our student/staff focus on mask wearing and hand washing/sanitization as the best and most effective prevention strategy.
-  We are unsure how many families would give permission for students to participate (permission must be granted by parents for students to participate) and if numbers are low, results will not be as helpful.
-  The pooled testing program would only prevent quarantine for students in classroom cohorts (which universal masking already greatly mitigates),  and would not assist in preventing quarantine for students in cafeterias, buses, or athletics which are outside of those cohorts.  

THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT WE HAVE ENTIRELY "CLOSED THE DOOR" TO POOLED TESTING AS AN OPTION.  It is to say that we have decided to take a more cautious and "wait and see" approach.  That being said, we do want to consider the wishes of our families, especially our K-5 families on this item since it is this population of student who have not yet had access to vaccinations.  Therefore, we plan on surveying all K-5 families about their interest in participating in pooled testing.  We will send a survey out after the first two weeks of school and then use the results of this survey to better determine next steps.

That being said, I'd like to urge families to learn more about Pooled testing and what it is so that when we ask your opinion, you will be able to make a more informed choice.  Here are some resources to learn more:

I'm sure you can each do your own research as well and I would encourage you to do so.  Please stay tuned.


Just wanted to let folks know that we will be opening our schools back up again to volunteers.  ALL VOLUNTEERS (regardless of whether or not you may have already previously participated in a training program) must participate in a training/orientation program before being allowed to volunteer in the schools.  The reason for this is that we want to add and include in this training specific expectations for COVID safety protocols so that our volunteers and our staff are clear on the rules and procedures that we will be using to keep everyone safe.  

If you are interested in volunteering in our schools, please go to our website LINKED HERE  to learn more.  WE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE YOU!

Note:  There is a contradiction on the website regarding any previous training...we will be fixing this.  Bottom line, EVERY VOLUNTEER will need to complete a "COVID 101" training before entering our schools.  Please reach out to Kelly Reed with any additional questions.  Her email is on the site linked above.


The BackPack Program provides school-age students enrolled in the Gorham School Department with healthy snacks and staple meal items helpful to your family for the weekend.  We aim to provide food that is child-friendly, non-perishable, and easily consumed; and to distribute the weekly bag discreetly, with the help of school staff.

Food bags will be distributed TO STUDENTS while they are in school once a week.  In addition, participants will receive 1 snack per day while they are at school.

If you are interested in signing your family up for this program, please click on the survey ink below.  If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how to help support this incredible program, please email Heather Whitaker at

Here's the survey link:


We thought you might like to know a little bit more about our 2021 graduates and their plans!  Check out the information below to learn more about our recent graduates' "future stories"! 

On Saturday, September 11, 2021 the United Craftsmen Fair will be held on the Chick Property space near the ice skating rink.  Crafters will begin set up at 6:00 a.m..  The fair will run from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.  Parking will be in the Narragansett School Lot, the Public Safety Lot next to the skating rink, and the bus loop as needed throughout the day.  

No Parking on Chick Drive.

Porta Potties will be near the skating rink area.

COME AND ENJOY these talented crafters...and maybe get a little early Christmas shopping done! 


Last year I sent out a blog post every week.  This year I plan on sending out a blog post every TWO weeks.  If things come up between those time frames I may send out some posts in between...but for now, please anticipate one of these updates every two weeks.  Next one will be Sept. 10!  

In the meantime...WELCOME BACK TO SCHOOL IN GORHAM!  Check out our social media sites for pictures and images of our opening days!  We are so very excited - GO RAMS!

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

2021-22 Parent/Guardian Opening Letter

                                                    GORHAM SCHOOL DEPARTMENT
Office of the Superintendent

Hollis S. Cobb                                                        Heather J. Perry, PhD                                        Brian A. Porter, PhD
Business Manager                                                  Superintendent of Schools                                Assistant Superintendent 
(207) 222-1000                                                      (207) 222-1012                                                  (207) 222-1025
FAX 839-5003                                                       FAX 839-8885                                                    FAX 839-8885                       

August 4, 2021

To:  Gorham Schools Parent/Guardians
From:  Heather J. Perry, PhD, Superintendent of Schools
Re:  Parent/Guardian Opening Letter 2021

Dear Parents/Guardians,

For those families who are new to Gorham - WELCOME TO RAM COUNTRY!  

For those families who are returning to the Gorham Schools - WELCOME BACK FOR ANOTHER INCREDIBLE SCHOOL YEAR!  GO RAMS!

We are so excited to be able to continue our journey towards a more "Pre-COVID normalcy" in our schools even as COVID 19 (and the Delta variant) is sending clear messages that it isn't finished with us yet!  The fact that we will be able to open our schools to all of our students for five full days of instruction per week is something I know we have all been looking forward to for far too long!  I know our support staff, our teachers, our administrators - ALL OF US - are very excited for the re-opening of schools this fall!  Our buildings have been far too quiet without everyone here this summer!

I am sure many of you are interested in hearing about what we anticipate to be our updated COVID 19 related safety protocols and procedures.  I will most definitely get to that in this message, but first, I wanted to make sure to share with you several other important pieces of information that I believe all families will need to ensure a great start to our upcoming 2021-22 School Year!


A reminder is offered that you can find our most up to date 2021-22 School Calendar by going to our district website (  Once there, click on "District Info." and then you should see the school calendar link from that drop down menu.  I've LINKED IT HERE for your convenience.

School will begin for all Grade 6 and 9 students on Monday, August 30.  School will begin for students in grades 1-5, 7-8 and 10-12 on August 31.  Kindergarten screening will take place for all Kindergarten students Monday, August 30 - Wednesday September 1st.  If you are a parent of an incoming K student, you will receive specific information regarding appointment schedules, etc. from your school's principal.  The first day of school for incoming Kindergarten students will be Thursday, September 2.

Elementary Schools will begin their day at 8:50 a.m. and end at 3:10 p.m.  GMS will begin at 8:00 a.m. and end at 2:20 p.m. GHS will begin their day at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:10 p.m.  When we have early release days (marked on the calendar) students will be dismissed from GHS at 11:00, from GMS at 11:10 and from the three elementary schools at 12:00 p.m.  K-5(8) schools will be sending out specific Parent drop off and pick up information that might slightly impact these times, as specific procedures to accommodate student and COVID safety guidelines will still be in place.

Please note that our 2021-22 School calendar INCLUDES 5 SNOW DAYS!  Yes - that's right - we'll have snow days again this coming year!  The plan at this point will be to use the 5 snow days as needed for traditional snow days, and then (and only then) we would look to utilize remote learning snow days so that we do not have to extend the ending of the school year.  This will only be done if we have already utilized all five snow days that are built into the current calendar.  I'll send more information out on this as we get closer to that brrrrrr time of the year! ☺

First and foremost, we ask any family who requires what we call "alternative transportation" (transportation to school from any location other than home, or transportation from school to any location other than home) to PLEASE COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING TRANSPORTATION SURVEY.  Without this information we cannot finalize routes for the fall!  If you are a parent who needs this type of transportation, please complete the survey below asap.  THANK YOU!  (Note:  we assume transportation from home to school and from school to home for children otherwise)


Specific Transportation routes and estimated times for a.m. and p.m. bus schedules will be posted on our website no later than August 23, 2021.  Your timely participation in the survey linked above will help speed the process if you haven't already completed the survey for the 2021-22 School Year - please take a few minutes to complete it.  Thank you!

Unlike last year, numbers of students on the bus at any given time will not be regulated (other than to the overall bus capacity rules that have always existed).  In other words, we will be moving back to full seating on our buses across grades K-12.  Although we still urge families that can provide their own transportation to do so, we are no longer in drastic need of this taking place.  This should cut down on the time it takes for parents to pick up and drop off their children at each school daily as well if you choose to provide your own transportation.  

Like last year, however we will still be requiring face masks be worn by all students and staff when riding our buses/vans.  Please know that students will be expected to sanitize their hands as they enter the bus and they will be required to wear a face covering/mask while riding the bus.  Four windows will remain open on each bus to increase air circulation.  Please plan accordingly. 


For the last year the federal government has stepped in to provide free breakfast and lunch for all students and it plans to continue that program through 2021-22.  The effort has allowed all students, regardless of their family's socioeconomic status, to receive a free breakfast and lunch, while at school across all grades.  If the pandemic has done nothing else, it has certainly shown us the importance of providing meals to all students, not just those who meet income eligibility requirements.  It has been one less thing parents have had to worry about, and a great way to ensure access to healthy and nutritious meals for all students.  It is good news that we will be able to keep this program for the coming year - no question!

Here's the "bad news"...well maybe not "bad news", but where WE NEED YOUR HELP! Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, when school meals became complementary, there has been a significant drop in Meal Benefit Application returns––meaning less families are filling out the application. THIS IS NOT GOOD - Here's why...

The family income data provided by the application informs key funding for school resources. This includes school meal reimbursements, funding for Title I programs, funding and resources for after school programs, funding provided to schools from the Maine State Legislature for essential programs and services at school, funding for special education, teacher loan forgiveness, and much, much more!

Federal and state government use the aggregate data from the application to distribute education funding to schools across the county and state of Maine. In other words, if there is no data to inform the needs of the community, it could result in less state subsidy for Gorham, which will mean increased local taxes and potentially less service support for our children most in need!

By completing the Meal Benefit Application, you are directly investing in your child’s education and the children and families in your community.

How can I complete the Meal Benefit Application?  The COMPLETELY CONFIDENTIAL application is available to print, complete and return to your school on our district Website (CLICK HERE) or you can Follow this link to access your SAU’s online application.  If you have difficulty accessing either of these methods, the form can also be sent home with a student...just contact your school's office to make the request.  If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to Raina Cooper n our School Nutrition office via email:


Is your child interested in participating in a fall sport offered through the schools?  If so, registration is now open and forms are available...please check out the Athletic Department's Website (LINKED HERE) to learn more and reach out with questions if you have them.  Our Athletic Director, Tim Spear will be happy to answer them!  Here's his email: 


The Gorham School Department believes strongly that the best instructional environment for students to learn is offered in our classrooms. We are excited about our ability to open schools in the Fall of 2021 to full 5 day per week programming for our students across grades K-12.  The Gorham School Department recognizes, however, that there will be a few students who will not be able to access in-person learning for the 2021-22 School Year due to compromising medical conditions that warrant minimizing exposure to COVID 19.  Because of this, we will be offering a fully remote learning program to only those students who are determined to be medically unable to attend school in person because of the risk of exposure to COVID 19.

This consideration would be made through either our Response To Intervention (RTI) team, Section 504 Team, or Special Education (IEP) Team after a referral for consideration is made by the parent/guardian to the school principal.  Once a referral packet is received, the appropriate team will convene to discuss the concerns for the student, and determine if there is a need for additional accommodations or whether a fully remote program is in their educational best interest.  Again, the district always has the goal of having students attend in-person instruction as the least restrictive environment.

In order for this referral to be considered, the following will need to be completed prior to meeting so that the team has the appropriate full information to consider:

Step 1:  The parent/guardian of the student(s) or an adult student completes the “Referral Form”.

Step 2:  The parent/guardian of the student(s) or an adult student reaches out to their licensed physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant or mental health clinician to complete the “Remote Instruction Consideration by Physician Form”

Step 3:  The parent/guardian of the student(s) or an adult student completes the “Authorization to Release/Exchange Information with Gorham School District Form”

Step 4:  The parent/guardian of the student(s) or an adult student returns the forms found under steps 1-3 to the School’s Principal.

Step 5:  The school’s nurse will reach out to the student(s) licensed physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant or mental health clinician to discuss possible accommodations that may be preferred to full remote instruction.

Step 6:  The school’s nurse, guidance counselor, principal or the student’s case manager will reach out to schedule a meeting of the school-based team and family to discuss the referral, considerations, and impacts to make a decision on the need for remote instruction and develop a plan as needed.  Note:  These meetings will take place in Mid-June and/or Late August, 2021.

Families who are considering referring their child(ren) for full remote programming for the Fall of 2021 should first review the “Virtual Learning Programming Overview” that is the first page of the appendix documents found in the order listed below:

Appendix A:  Virtual Learning Programming Overview

Appendix B:  Referral Form

Appendix C:  Remote Instruction Consideration by Physician Form

Appendix D:  Authorization to Release/Exchange Information with Gorham School District Form


I suspect that after you have read/reviewed all this (especially the last piece below) you may have some questions.  I have scheduled a K-12 Parent Open Forum for this very purpose to be held on August 9, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.  

I was going to attempt to try and juggle both a live meeting and a zoom meeting, but I didn't want to have the technology of trying to juggle both get in the way of important discussions - so this meeting will be entirely via zoom.  I will, however, offer that any parent who wishes to meet with me in person please email me and we can set up a time to do so individually or in small groups.

The Zoom link for the online access is below.  I hope to see you there!

Join Zoom Meeting Meeting ID: 847 7566 0908 Passcode: 707325

One tap mobile. +1-301-715-8592


There is no question that the COVID 19 Pandemic is still with us - like a bad taste in the mouth that you just can't brush, floss or rinse away!  That's really the nicest way I could think of to describe the ongoing pandemic while still being fit for public consumption.  I am sure you would all agree!  Personally, I have wanted to be done with this Pandemic for a while now, but like you, what I want and what I get are not always the same thing. 😟

I know it does no good to sit back and be upset about the things you can't control so like a good "Main-ah" I'm gonna keep this section positive and focused on how we roll up our sleeves and not let this darn pandemic get to us!  Although we may still have to do some things differently - let's all remember that at least we can still do them when just 18 months ago, we couldn't do many of these things at all!  It reminds me of our incredible GHS students playing basketball last winter with masks on.  They could have thrown their hands up in the air and said "no way"...but they loved the game and they weren't going to let this Pandemic stop them from playing it!  I'm taking a page from our students' book when I share the following recommendations that I will be making to the Gorham School Committee for the opening of schools.   

First - the good news!  I am strongly recommending that we return to school in the "green" model for five full days of instruction per week across grades K-12.  NOW THAT FEELS GOOD!  😊

Now comes the things I recommend we do in order to safely allow us to open in the green model.  Again, my recommendations are just that - my recommendations.  The School Committee will have the final authority when approving the Pandemic Operations plan on August 11.  The following list is a high level "executive summary"...please review our Draft 2021-22 Pandemic Operations Plan and our Draft 2021-22 Return To School Guidelines Handbook for more details!  Here goes:

* The Gorham Schools will be following the most recent federal CDC guidelines for the safe reopening of schools (Updated 7/9/21 & LINKED HERE)

* All staff and students riding school buses/vans must wear face coverings/masks while riding.

* All staff and students riding school buses/vans must sanitize their hands prior to boarding.

*  All students and staff across grades K-12 will be required to wear a face covering/mask while indoors.

*  Physical distancing requirements have been lifted (under the green model - distancing requirements would kick in again under the yellow model), although we will still encourage distancing when practicable.

*  We will encourage students across grades K-12 to maintain a minimum of 3ft of physical distance when eating.  Air Purifying units will be added to each school's cafeteria spaces to add additional layers of protection for students while eating.

*  We will continue to strongly encourage utilization of outdoor classroom spaces.

*  Parents/guardians will be asked to use a daily health screening tool as a guide to make decisions about sending their child to school or not each day and will only need to communicate with the school if there is a positive indication of symptoms based upon utilization of the screening tool.

*  If staff or students are sick, we ask that you remain home.

*  Contact tracing for possible exposure to COVID 19 will continue.  Vaccinated individuals will not need to quarantine due to a possible exposure/close contact, however they will be encouraged to test for COVID 19 between 3-5 days after exposure.  Unvaccinated individuals who have been deemed a close contact will still be required to quarantine for 10 days.

I realize that to some this list may seem restrictive and to others, not restrictive enough.  By encouraging those that can get vaccinated to get vaccinated and by following CDC guidelines, I believe we will be able to keep our schools open to five day per week instruction even during times when transmission rates within our community may increase.  I believe our schools have demonstrated how safe they are for our children and I believe this coming year will be no different.  I believe that by opening in and operating in the green model we can make sure our students have engaging, fun, and meaningful learning experiences across all our schools.  We may have to do a few things a little differently (like keep the masks) but we are not going to let this pandemic get us down!  We are going to find a way to SAFELY do the things we know are most important for our children.  We are going to learn and play together.  We are going to laugh and possibly even cry a bit together.  We are going to listen to and support one another - we are going to be what Gorham is - STRONG! 

I may be a bit biased, but in my humble opinion, we have the BEST students around, we have the BEST staff around, we have the BEST parent/guardians around, and we have the BEST community in the state!  I know I speak for everyone when I say we can't wait to hear that "buzz" across our schools that can only be heard when our students are safely with us, learning, playing and growing together!  See you all soon!


Heather J. Perry, Ph.D

Superintendent of Schools, Gorham, ME.