Do you know what I find AMAZING? THIS COMMUNITY. With all that continues to go on in this world, the community of Gorham sticks together. We remain focused on our children. Supporting them, teaching them, and most of all loving them.
I know many of you are concerned about your children and what this Pandemic is doing to them. You are asking questions like:
- Will my child be prepared for Middle School, High School, College or beyond?
- Is my child getting what they need? Not just academically but socially and emotionally as well?
- Are they happy? Will they be happy?
- Am I doing enough as a parent/teacher/leader/caregiver to support them?
I want you to know that when I walk around our schools, what I see represents all that is RIGHT in this world. I can not answer the questions above 100% accurately for each and every student, but what I can say is that for the vast majority of the students the answer is YES down the line!
What I see in our schools, classrooms, playgrounds and cafeterias are smiling students (yes - even behind those masks). I hear laughter. I hear joy. I hear curiosity. I hear friendship. I see our code of conduct values come to life (Respect, Honesty, Courage, Compassion, Responsibility) and I hear the "buzz" that can only be created in classrooms full of engaged and curious minds.
I hear and see some struggles too. Learning does not come without struggle. But I see patience, compassion, and learning driving all that we do. Focused not on punishment, but on restoration and repair.
I see what the pictures below show. That for all the negatives this pandemic world is throwing at us - our children are safe, they are supported, and they continue to remain curious and learn. I hope you can see that in the pictures too and know that each of YOU as parents contribute to these things as much, if not more, than we do.
When I say I am amazed at this community...I am telling the truth. It takes a true "village" to raise a child and that old saying is all that more important as we continue to navigate our way TOGETHER through our pandemic challenges.
Enjoy the pictures and check out more on our social media sites (you know - the positive ones - NOT Tik Tok! ☺👀).
Now onto the information!
A REMINDER OF OUR CRISIS RESPONSE PLANS
Our public facing Crisis Plan can be found on our website for review by parents and community members. I've also LINKED IT HERE for your convenience. Please know, however that there is A LOT more that goes into our plans than what is seen here. We keep this more detailed information confidential purposefully for reasons I hope you can understand.
Additionally, I want folks to be aware that we update all of our full school plans annually and we provide a report to the Gorham School Committee in executive session each year to ensure our plans are kept up to date and maintain all needed information. These plans are also shared with key town entities such as the Gorham PD and Gorham Fire Department.
After each planned, or unplanned practice of these procedures we also meet to debrief what worked well, what didn't and how we can "tweak" our plans to ensure they remain strong. Folks that sent feedback over the past several days, please know that each has been read and will be used in our debrief process to improve our overall practices moving forward.
RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES REGARDING SOCIAL MEDIA
As we continue to debrief the experiences of the past week regarding the role that social media may have played in intensifying fears of violence in our schools, I thought it might be helpful to share some resources with families to talk about social media and its role in our lives. Please know we continue to provide strong instruction on this topic with students while at school...but with this one, "tag-teaming" is likely the best approach! If we're all sending the same messages, it is definitely harder for students to ignore us! ☺
As we all know, social media can have many positive benefits. It can keep us connected and help us to celebrate each other and the great things that we do. Unfortunately, it can also be a place where hateful messages and words can be shared, and fear induced. Social media is, in itself, a very human creation and with it comes the reflection of all humans. Good and bad. It is important that we constantly talk with our children and remind them about how these incredibly powerful communication tools can be used for "good" and "pure" purposes or also used for more nefarious reasons and how to ensure they themselves are using this digital medium in alignment with our code of conduct.
First, and foremost - in particular reference to threats of violence towards our schools or anyone/thing in our community it is important for children to know that the very first thing they should do if/when they come across this is to take a screen shot of the image or post. Then, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT, as tempting as it may be to forward it on to a friend to make sure they know about it or have seen it please DO NOT do that. It only adds to the spread of fear. Instead, what students should do is take that screen shot and send that along to a trusted adult immediately. That could be their parents, trusted adult family members, a teacher, school admin. or even a trusted law enforcement officer. Bottom line, it's important to let an adult know what the threat may be so that we can appropriately respond, but it is equally important not to accidentally create additional fear by spreading it around.
That advice, and more can be found in some of the incredible resources below for families. Please check these resources out and talk with your child about their use of social media often.
CONTACT TRACING OVER THE HOLIDAY BREAK
Similar to what we did over the Thanksgiving Break, we will NOT be conducting contact tracing protocols over the Holiday break. We will conduct contact tracing through the end of the day on Thursday, December 23 but between Dec. 24 - Jan. 1 we will not be conducting contact tracing protocols as a school system.
If you become aware of a positive case of COVID 19 between Dec. 24 - Jan. 2 that impacts our schools, we would ask you to please email the building principal and cc the school nurse with all pertinent information such as name and grade of child, test date, symptoms date, etc. School admin. and nurses will review this information and then follow up as needed on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022 when we return to school. Contact information for emails is below:
- Becky Fortier, Principal - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Melissa Tringali, Nurse - email@example.com
- Cynthia Remick, Principal - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Collette Andreasen, Nurse - email@example.com
- Jodi Mezzanotte, Principal - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Carrie Chasse, Nurse - email@example.com
- Quinton Donahue, Principal - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Alicia Murry, Nurse - email@example.com
- Brian Jandreau, Principal - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Joyce LaRou, Nurse - email@example.com
CHANGES TO SCHOOL CONTACT TRACING PROTOCOLS TO BE IMPLEMENTED AFTER THE HOLIDAY BREAK (EFFECTIVE JAN. 3, 2022)
After conducting research regarding contact tracing protocols in other Regional Cumberland County Schools, we are making adjustments to our contact tracing protocols in an effort to make the long term viability of conducting these protocols more sustainable for our staff. Particularly our nurses and administrative teams. These changes are geared towards continuing to provide for the major purpose of contact tracing (which is to keep positive, symptomatic students out of school in order to prevent/mitigate the spread of COVID 19 within our schools) while balancing the need for our staff not to have to work 24/7.
Therefore, beginning on Monday, January 3, 2021 the Gorham Schools will utilize these new Contact Tracing timelines and communication protocols.
These changes DO NOT impact how close contacts are identified. The Gorham Schools continue to follow the Maine CDC and DHHS Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the identification of close contacts. These changes only impact the timeline for contact tracing protocols and changes in communication of close contacts.
If you have any questions, please contact your school’s principal or school nurse. THANK YOU.
Purpose of Contact Tracing:
The role of contact tracing in the Gorham schools is to keep positive, symptomatic students out of school in order to mitigate/prevent the spread of COVID 19 in our schools.
Contact tracing processes will only be conducted Monday through Friday during regular operating hours of our schools. There will be no contact tracing over the weekends or during school holidays. If you become aware of a positive case of COVID 19 during a weekend, or over a school Holiday, please email your school’s principal and school nurse (list above) but know that contact tracing will not occur until the next regular school day.
Identified close contacts who remain asymptomatic may remain in school to complete their school day. If close contacts CAN go home, they will go home. Parents will be afforded the opportunity to make that decision.
Identified close contacts who become symptomatic during the school day will be sent home. BinaxNOW testing will be provided if approved by the parent/guardian. Symptomatic students will remain in the isolation room until parents are able to pick up.
Communications of close contact by the schools will change. Schools will now follow the protocols below to notify parents that their children are close contacts:
An Email (template linked here) will be sent to the parent/guardians of each identified close contact. This email will include all important information such as the date of exposure, dates of quarantine (if needed) and clear guidelines for how to return to school and contact information for who to contact with any questions parents may have.
A text message will be sent to the parent/guardians of each identified close contact as well to ask them to check their email for more information.
The school will follow up with parents via phone to ensure students who need to be picked up are picked up as needed.
I sent a video message out on this last week explaining the rationale for these additional days. If you didn't get the chance to watch it then, you can CLICK HERE to view. Basically, I just wanted to make sure folks had these dates in their calendars for planning purposes. Below is a list of all Early Release days for the remainder of the school year. I have marked the "new" ones vs. the "old" ones so you know which ones were recently approved by the School Committee.
*. January 12 (new)
*. January 19 (already existing)
*. January 26 (new)
*. February 2 (new)
*. February 16 (already existing)
The School Committee will be reviewing substitute fill rate data at their January workshop and will then discuss the possibility of whether or not additional ER days will be added to the March/April/May calendar. The additional days they will be considering (so not yet approved) are:
*. March 9
*. March 23
*. April 13
*. April 27
*. May 11
*. May 18.
Again, these decisions will be based primarily on how we are doing with substitute coverages for our classrooms. If we have increased our substitute fill rates to 80% or more, we likely will not consider additional ER dates. If we remain below that rate, we may need to consider these additional days. You can see a historical analysis of fill rates by CLICKING HERE.
ASPIRE GORHAM UPDATED NEWSLETTER AVAILABLE
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
We have been working hard to maintain our focus on supporting students and staff during this challenging year with mental health and social/emotional needs. The Holidays, while a joyful time of year for many, can also be some of the most challenging times of the year for many too.
We are working hard to increase our partnerships with local community based providers such as the Opportunity Alliance. Just this past week, we worked together to create a poster (seen below, but also LINKED HERE) to remind folks that YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. Just reach out and there is someone to help provide caring and loving support.
Also, as a reminder to families, the Maine Department of Education has created an incredible resource on the topic of Social Emotional Learning that is free and open to all parents. CLICK HERE to register and check out the great resources!
NEW LEARNING FACILITATOR PROGRAM ANNOUNCED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH SMCC
The Gorham Schools, in partnership with Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) is announcing a new and exciting program for folks that may have always been interested in working in schools, but perhaps felt they weren't qualified.
Our new "Learning Facilitator" to Educational Technician Training program will begin January 19 and run through June 8, 2022. You can check out the flyer here (and please spread broadly).
Generally speaking, this program will allow individuals who meet min. requirements outlined on the flyer to work full time with benefits as a learning facilitator in the Gorham Schools. This pilot program will be broadened to partner with other area school systems hopefully this fall. Individuals who sign up will be employed by the Gorham Schools Monday - Friday 7 hours each day at a rate of $17.25/hour with full benefits. This apprenticeship like program will allow individuals to work in our schools and then be "released" each M,W,F to attend specific courses offered by SMCC from 1:00 - 3:30 p.m. onsite at the Gorham Schools. These courses will total 9 credits of college level coursework - FOR FREE. That's right, no cost to participants! So you will be able to work, get paid to go to school and get free tuition for 9 college credits - all while making a positive difference for the children you serve each day in our schools! AWESOME!
Once the course is completed, individuals receive an emergency certificate from Maine Department of Education to work as educational technicians in our schools in a broad range of programs.
Interested? Well, here's what you need to do to take the next step:
1. Use contact information on the flyer above to reach out to SMCC and apply.
2. Once SMCC has helped you through their process, you then need to apply to be a learning facilitator on our website. CLICK HERE for that link. If you have any questions, please call Rhonda Warren at 222-1012.
3. Once you have applied, we will conduct interviews during the week of January 3 and Jan. 10. You will then be "onboarded" to work in the Gorham Schools by participating in required trainings - all in time to officially begin work Jan. 19, 2022.
In this initial pilot program we are seeking 6-8 individuals to participate so space is limited. If you have questions, please reach out today! My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: this is a pilot program with a pretty aggressive timeline to begin. We may need to push back start dates to a little later in January, but the process outlined above will be the same. So please - reach out today if interested!☺
SECOND ROUND: SUBSTITUTE TRAINING CLASS
Just a quick reminder we will be holding another round of FREE professional development for substitutes. This time, the class will be taught by me so it ought to be interesting for sure! Check out the flyer below for more details! Would love to see folks there!
Just wanted to make sure folks were aware of these incredible activities sponsored by New Year's Gorham Committee! Looks like great, safe fun for the whole family! Check out the schedule below (and linked here) and let's celebrate the new year as only the community of Gorham can! GO RAMS!
IN CLOSING - HAPPY HOLIDAYS & OPTIMISM FOR 2022!
It's been a long stretch of time for everyone since March, 2020. Parents, educators, students. We're all still getting used to this new pandemic world. Many of us (myself included) do NOT want to "get used to" our new reality and still long for Pre-COVID days. The reality is, however, that those days are gone and we need to face it. We are creating our new normal every day in how we interact with one another, how we support one another, how we keep each other safe, and how we be kind to one another. Of course, we can also choose to create a new normal that isn't as "nice" as what I just described. I suppose the bottom line is that we all have the power to define this new normal. It will become what we, collectively, make it.
The image below is of me laying on the floor at Great Falls with their giant air snowman seemingly having just attacked me and in my exhaustion having given up. It was a staged photo of course. I had recently been asked for the 100th time whether or not we were going to cancel school the next day (which we wound up doing)...and a staff member suggested we have a little fun. I very willingly obliged. ☺