Its been another incredible two weeks of school here in Gorham since my last blog post! We are enjoying the beautiful fall weather that Maine has offered us these past weeks, but there is no question there is a little "chill" in the air and we know that after Maine's fall come Maine's winter - brrr! We are definitely enjoying getting outside while we can!
As usual, I wanted to start my blog post by sharing some pictures of our incredible students doing what they do best - having fun while learning! Although to be clear, that center picture of two individuals dressed up as traffic cones - those are staff members, not students! Silly staff members!☺
And of course you can always find ALL KINDS OF INFORMATION on our district website!
And now on to the informational stuff...
INFORMATION ON NOV. 2'S SCHOOL RELATED
“Shall the Town of Gorham be authorized to expend not more than $575,000 from the school capital reserve fund and not more than $244,900 from undesignated fund balance in addition to the $2,265,000 in funding from bonds approved by referendum in 2020 for the Gorham Middle School HVAC Heat Pump Upgrade and Repair Project?”
As I stated in my Sept. 24 blog post on this item...this is a unique bond question BECAUSE WE ARE NOT ACTUALLY ASKING FOR ANY ADDITIONAL MONIES TO BE BORROWED.
What we are asking for is permission to expend out of already identified and existing funds a total project amount that is above the original amount already approved by voters in the Nov. 2020 bond for the GMS HVAC project. I know, that's a little confusing...let's see if I can clarify:
1. The voters of Gorham have already approved (in November of 2020) expending up to $2,265,000.00 via bonds for the GMS HVAC project.
2. When we put the project out to bid, we discovered that the actual project cost would exceed this authorization, so we have not proceeded with the project.
3. We have determined that we need an additional $819,900.00 in funds in order to be able to move forward with the project.
4. WE HAVE IDENTIFIED THESE FUNDS THROUGH ALREADY EXISTING ACCOUNTS. WE WILL NOT HAVE TO BORROW THE ADDITIONAL FUNDS REQUESTED. $575,000.00 will come from our newly created capital reserve account that was "seeded" from additional state subsidy provided to Gorham in FY 22. An additional $244,900.00 will come from undesignated budgetary fund balance. THEREFORE NO ADDITIONAL DOLLARS WILL BE BORROWED.
5. What this question merely does is ask voters to approve our expending of funds in the new total amount for the project which will be $3,084,900.00. Since voters already approved the original $2,265,000.00 in November, 2020 we now just need your approval to expend the additional $819,900.00 ($575,000 from capital reserve and $244,900 from undesignated budgetary fund balance).
Bottom line, please know...
* If you vote YES you are simply allowing us to move forward with the already approved project without borrowing additional funds.
* If you vote NO we will not be able to move forward with the project - period - as we would not have voter authorization to spend the additional funds needed to do so.
As we continue to operate our schools in the midst of a Pandemic, we hope it is abundantly clear the importance of moving forward with the GMS HVAC project in order to ensure our HVAC systems are operating to their standards for the overall safety of our children and staff at GMS.
Once approved, we will put the project out to bid this winter, and be prepared to move forward with Phase I this spring and summer (2022) and then to finish the project in the spring & summer of 2023.
As always, if anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask by emailing email@example.com.
SCHOOL BASED COVID 19 VACCINE CLINICS PLANNED FOR 5-11 YEAR OLDS
The Gorham Schools will be working in partnership with our friends at Maine Health to provide school based COVID 19 vaccination clinics for all students ages 5-11 whose families are interested in participating. These clinics will be held at GMS, Great Falls Elementary School, Narragansett Elementary School, and Village Elementary School. Only those students whose parents provide consent will be vaccinated.
Before I share our rough plans for these clinics, I wanted to be clear that as of today, the FDA and National CDC have not yet approved these vaccines for 5-11 year olds. The plans I outline below then are based upon approvals occurring. If these approvals do not occur in the timelines given, we may need to adjust accordingly.
The FDA is scheduled to meet on Oct. 26 to make a final decision regarding approval for Pfizer vaccines for 5-11 year olds. IF the FDA approves, then the national CDC is scheduled to meet on Nov. 4, 2021 to discuss their approval. Then and only then (after both the FDA and CDC have approved the vaccines) would we move forward with plans to host school based vaccination clinics. We are preparing our timelines and schedules assuming that these approvals will occur, but please know that if these approvals do not occur on the schedules outlined above, we will likely need to adjust our timelines accordingly.
So with this in mind, here's what we have planned:
- First, we will host an online parent informational meeting on November 8 at 6:00 p.m. via zoom. The link for this meeting is below. We would encourage any parent who has questions about the safety of the vaccine or about how the vaccine works in children to please attend. We will have special guests at this meeting to assist in answering questions similar to how we did the informational session last spring for GMS and GHS students. These knowledgeable guests will be able to answer questions that parents/families may have to help inform your choice as to whether or not you would like your child(ren) to participate in the school based COVID 19 vaccination clinics for children ages 5-11.
Here is the zoom link information - please mark your calendars!
- After the informational meeting, we will then send out consent forms on or about Nov. 10th, 2021. These will be sent from each participating school (GMS, Great Falls, Narragansett and Village). Families that are interested in participating will indicate so via these consent forms. Children who do not have specific consent forms completed will not be vaccinated.
- At this time, we anticipate that we would be able to host the clinics themselves on or about Thursday, November 18 and Friday, November 19 for the first shot of the two shot series. These are our preferred dates, but we are still working with our Maine Health partners on finalizing them as they are working with other schools as well. If not, the dates we select will be sometime during the week of Nov. 15, 2021.
- We would then target a date for the 2nd shot of the two shot series to occur again, on site at the schools, sometime during the week of Dec. 6, preferably on the 9th and 10th.
We are still working on the logistics of how the clinics themselves will operate. We envision that these clinics would operate very similarly to our flu vaccine clinics and/or to previous H1N1 vaccine clinics provided by our schools in the past. We have a scheduled site visit with our Maine Health partners on Friday, Oct. 29. After that meeting we should know much more about the specific logistics of how we will call classrooms down, how the shots will be administered, and how monitoring will occur, etc. I will be able to send more detailed information out by the time my next blog rolls around on Nov. 5 so please stay tuned and mark your calendars for the informational meeting on Nov. 8 at 6:00 p.m. via zoom!
COVID 19 SAFETY PROTOCOLS REMINDER
As you can tell with the recent flurry of COVID community letters that have gone out, COVID 19 is still very much present in our community. Thus far, the schools have had 36 positive cases of COVID 19 associated with our schools and thus far all 36 positive cases have originated from outside of our schools.
While in school, our students are doing an excellent job of keeping their face coverings on and trying to remember to maintain physical distancing of three feet whenever possible. As a result of this, and other safety precautions taken by the schools, we have not seen any evidence thus far of school based transmissions having occurred (knock on wood). Clearly, however, community based transmissions are occurring.
As we ramp up to prepare ourselves for participation in COVID 19 vaccine clinics for our 5-11 year olds I'd like to encourage families to please do what you can to "double down" on these safety protocols so that we can be sure all students that would like to participate in these vaccine clinics can participate.
So what can you do to help prevent the spread of COVID 19? Well, the same things we have been doing to prevent the spread of COVID 19 in our schools and in our community for the past two years that we know are effective:
1. Wear face coverings whenever you are in an indoor setting that is not your home, unless eating.
2. Wash/Sanitize those hands frequently.
3. Try to maintain 3 ft of physical distancing whenever practicable.
4. Get vaccinated if you are eligible and choose to do so.
5. Stay home if you are sick.
If we all work together to follow these safety protocols, we can ensure (A) that our schools remain open to 5 day per week instruction for all students and (B) that we are doing our part to minimize the impacts of positive cases and the need to quarantine for all of our students across grades K-12.
SNOW DAY PROTOCOL REMINDER
I know, its hard to think about right now, but since it has been over a year since we've had a traditional snow day, I thought it might be good to remind everyone a little early about what to expect in the event we need to call a snow day.
First, please know that the overall plan is that we have five snow days built into our calendar. WE WILL UTILIZE THESE SNOW DAYS as we have traditionally utilized snow days. If, and only if, we go above the 5 snow days built into the calendar will we then consider fully remote learning days instead. So for at least the first five snow days this year, we will follow our "normal" snow day protocols. Here's a reminder about what those are!
Cancellations and delays are generally based on overall road conditions in Gorham and our ability to safely run buses. Additionally, due to the fact that so many of our students walk to school, we also base decisions on our public works crew’s ability to plow and clean sidewalks. In some circumstances, cancellations and delays may also be based on forecasted conditions.
The Gorham Schools utilize full day cancellations, 1-hour delays, and 2-hour delays as well as early dismissals depending upon the forecasted conditions and timing of storms. If school is delayed for 1 hour, all bus pick-up times and school start times will be delayed by exactly 1 hour. For example, if your student would normally have been picked up by 7:15 and the school day began at 7:45 the new pick-up time would be 8:15 and the new school start time would be 8:45. Similarly, for a 2-hour delay, all bus pick-up times and school start times will be delayed by exactly 2 hours. Early release dismissal times will generally be as follows:
School Hours for Early Release Due to Storms:
IF school is canceled or delayed, communication regarding these decisions will be relayed to you via:School Messenger (our automated phone, text, and email system). This notification would typically occur at approximately 5:30 a.m. if a decision is made to cancel in the morning, or by 10:00 a.m. if a decision is made to cancel at the half day.
Postings and notifications regarding school cancellations, delays, and/or early release decisions can also be located via the following:
- District web site: gorhamschools.org
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/hperrysup
- TV Stations: Channel 6, Channel 8 and Channel 13
- Radio Stations: WGAN 560 AM, WMGX 93.1 FM, WPOR 101.0 FM, WYNZ 100.0 FM, WTHT 99.9 FM, WLAM 1470 AM, and KISS 97.9 FM
It is important to note that If school is canceled for the day, all after-school programs, activities, and athletic events are automatically canceled unless the district specifically communicates otherwise.
There may be times when school is in session, but the weather is expected to worsen throughout the day and into the evening, causing the district to cancel all after-school programs, activities, and athletic events. Communication on these occasions will be via announcements in schools, our automated messaging system, and our website.
Please understand that attempting to forecast the weather conditions here in Maine is difficult even for our professional meteorologists. The Gorham Schools will always attempt to make the best decisions possible with the safety of our students at the forefront of each decision. On a day that is forecasted to have poor weather conditions, I typically will start my morning at 4:30 a.m. getting up to watch the weather, calling our public works crew who are on the road, and other area Superintendents to see what conditions are likely to be in their area. I will then log onto several weather sites, check radar and satellite images and timing of the storm, all before making my final decision. Then once the decision is made, all I can do is sit back and hope that all of that data is correct and that mother nature cooperates! None of this, as you might imagine is an exact science. The Gorham Schools will always do its best to make the right call, however, please know we understand that it is always the parent/guardian who makes the final decisions regarding the safety of your student(s). If there is ever a circumstance where school has not been canceled or delayed, yet you feel as though it is best to keep your child home because of road conditions please do not hesitate to do so.
To be honest, I'm kinda looking forward to calling snow days again...now that we've experienced a pandemic...these decisions somehow seem "easier" even though I know they are not! ☺
UPDATE ON SPECIAL COMMITTEE WORK
The Gorham School Committee currently has several different special committees and/or ad hoc committees doing some pretty important work so I thought it might be important to just make sure folks know what these committees are and how to follow their work if you are interested in doing so.
The first is the Gorham Schools Anti-Racism and Equity Committee. This committee is a formal ad. hoc subcommittee of the Gorham School Committee. Membership includes approximately 24 members representing various stakeholder groups ranging from teachers, administrators and students to parents and community members. The group is facilitated by professional consultants working with the Maine Intercultural Communications Consultants. This Committee was established in an effort to eliminate all forms of racism, intolerance, inequity, and disparity in our school system. We aim to ensure that each school creates a welcoming equitable culture and inclusive environment that reflects and celebrates the diversity of the district’s student population, their families, the community, and an environment that reflects our Code of Conduct. Among such other duties as the School Committee may from time to time assign, members shall collaborate with the Superintendent and/or their designee to support the achievement of the objectives specified in the Anti-Racism policy. You can follow the work of the committee by clicking on the running agendas and notes document LINKED HERE.
The second committee I'd like to highlight is the Gorham Strategic Re-Visioning Committee. In December 2017, the Gorham School Committee approved a strategic plan intended to serve as a map outlining how the school district would move forward to “Prepare and Inspire” ALL students in Gorham so that they leave our schools college, career, and life ready!
The Strategic plan outlined specific goals, action steps, proposed timelines, and evidence for completion of each goal over the next five years. Annually, the District Leadership team reviewed implementation of the plan and shared progress towards the goals with the School Committee.
As the District nears the end of the current five-year plan, the Strategic Re-Visioning Committee will commence a year-long redesign of the strategic plan to determine:
Where we are in the work.
How we continue moving forward.
How we continue to engage our community in the work.
Vision for early childhood learning (birth - 5) for Gorham
Assessment of current community assets to build towards actualizing this vision.
Assessment of current community gaps in actualizing this vision.
Creation of draft priority action steps and approximate timelines for work needed to make the early childhood learning vision a reality in Gorham.