Thursday, August 31, 2017

September Letter from the Principals

Great Falls Elementary School

September 1, 2017

Dear Great Falls Families,

Welcome back! We are officially in full swing and loving every moment! Every staff member, student, and parent has been working hard to get Great Falls up and running for a productive and successful year! Check out the school calendar at Great Falls Family Calendar 2017-2018.

Teachers and staff members have been visiting Great Falls throughout July and August to prepare their physical spaces, while also attending workshops and trainings. A lot goes on behind the scenes and throughout the summer months to prepare for the start of the year! The office staff has completed many new registrations, mastered student bus destinations, and prepared all the documents necessary to collect information to effectively communicate with our families. Please check out the Top 10 Things to Know From the Office to help keep our students safe and our procedures running smoothly.

The Great Falls staff has ensured that their instructional techniques and strategies are on target to help all students meet grade level standards. Teacher teams continue to work collaboratively to implement quality lessons that are thoughtful, engaging, and tied to our curricula goals. Character education is always a priority and staff will continue to focus on addressing the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of our students through pro-social education. Character education and establishing a positive classroom community are always a priority during the first few weeks of school. Our staff does a fabulous job at setting the stage for a collaborative, productive year to come. Be sure to peruse staff websites, blogs and more under school information at Great Falls Staff Email and Websites.

We could not do what we do without the continual support from you! Thank you for attending Kindergarten Orientation and Open House! Please connect with our school community by checking out The Great Falls Parent Connection Facebook Page. Please consider volunteering in our school by completing the annual registration form at Volunteer Information. Join us for  volunteer orientation on Thursday, September 14th at 9:00a.m. in the Great Falls cafeteria. Our parent community makes it possible for the Great Falls staff to successfully teach our students.

You shopped for supplies, new sneakers, established nighttime structure, packed healthy school snacks and lunches, made after school childcare arrangements, and completed many school forms. You have instilled in your child a positive attitude about school and learning. Through clear communication, at home support with routines and homework, participation at school events, and more, you help to establish a positive home/school connection that is necessary for the success of our students. Please note that September is Attendance Awareness Month. Every day is important in a child’s learning and we thank you for sharing this message with your children and supporting us in reducing absenteeism.

Thank you today and thank you every day for supporting Great Falls in achieving our district vision…

“Prepare and Inspire!”

Our students are the heart of our work! They are our focus as we aim to prepare and inspire! It has been such fun watching our students become reacquainted with old friends while meeting new ones. The returning students have been wonderful role models and guides for our Kindergarten students. The lively conversations happening in the cafeteria, on the playground, and during team building activities are energizing and amusing. Every incredible child walking through our school reminds me every day of why we do what we do. Our kids are the reason and are at the center of every decision we make and every action we take!

At Great Falls School we are dedicated to success.  We value skill, knowledge, and excellence in all areas. Our mission is to prepare and enable all learners to grow everyday.  Our sights are set on being ready for the world of today and of tomorrow. In an environment that fosters kindness and safety, we work to ensure that all children and adults will reach high standards of scholarship, character, and citizenship.

We are ready! Please feel free to reach out to us at any time with questions and feedback. We are available through email at and or by phone at 222-1050.

Happy September!


Becky Fortier, Great Falls Principal
Stacey Sawyer, Great Falls Assistant Principal

Monday, August 14, 2017

Parent Reference Guide

Great Falls Elementary School
Succeeding Today to Be Ready for Tomorrow
Parent Reference Guide
Mission Statement
At Great Falls School we are dedicated to success.  We value skill, knowledge, and excellence in all areas. Our mission is to prepare and enable all learners to grow everyday.  Our sights are set on being ready for the world of today and of tomorrow. In an environment that fosters kindness and safety, we work to ensure that all children and adults will reach high standards of scholarship, character and citizenship.

Please view our school website often at

Office Contact Information
Rhonda Perkins, Administrative Assistant - 222-1053
Julie Murray, School Secretary - 222-1050
Teresa Merrill, School Nurse -    222-1062
Michael Lortie, School Counselor - 222-1169
Jaime Tardif, Social Worker -    222-1168
Stacey Sawyer, Assistant Principal - 222-1051
Becky Fortier, Principal -    222-1052

School Hours
School starts at 9:00 a.m. Dismissal begins at 2:50 p.m. If your child is out for the day or you need to make changes to dismissal, please call 222-1050 as soon as possible. The office is staffed at 7:00 a.m.  If you choose to email, please be sure to email both Mrs. Perkins and Mrs. Murray. Children who do not take the bus should not arrive at school before 8:40 a.m.

Arrival Procedures
Bus students will arrive at 8:30 a.m. Staff will be supervising the bus loop, playground, and cafeteria. Students participating in the breakfast program will report to the cafeteria. Weather permitting, Kindergarten through grade 2 students will be escorted to the playground for a morning fitness break from 8:30 a.m. - 8:55 a.m. Grade 3 through 5 students will enter the school and report directly to their classroom. Students dropped off by their parents between 8:30-8:55a.m.  are expected to use the parent drop off circle. Please use caution when students are exiting vehicles. Students arriving after 9:00 a.m. will need to be escorted by an adult into the main office and signed in.  Students will be marked as tardy if their arrival is after 9:00 a.m. It is Great Falls policy that parents do not go to the classroom to drop off their children.

Under no circumstance are students to be dropped off at school prior to 8:30 a.m. This includes the playground area. There will be no adult supervision until 8:30 a.m.

Dismissal Procedures
If you need to change how your child will be dismissed at the end of the day and you did not have a chance to send in a note, please make sure to call before 10:30am.. This gives us time to provide the teacher written notification of the change.

Parent Pick Up:
We have two groups of parents/caregivers that we consider with our end of the day pick-ups:
One group is the parents/caregivers who pick up their students everyday or certain days of every week. These parents/caregivers need to send us in a single note at the start of the year to let us know that this will always happen. The second group is the parent/caregivers who call in, drop in, or send in a note to pick up their child occasionally. If you would like to pick up your child at the end of the day and have not sent in a note, please call the office (222-1050) by 10:30 am.

All parent pick-ups will begin at 2:55 and will take place in the gym. Mrs. Murray will only call the individual names of the children who may not be aware that they are being picked up. If your child is a usual pick up or if you sent in a note, s/he will not be called down by name but will be called down with pick-ups at 2:55.

Mr. D will manage a sign out table in the gym for all pick-ups. You will need to SIGN YOUR CHILD OUT at the table. Once you have signed them out, you will need to wait in the gym in the designated parent waiting area to “connect” with your child and take them home. It is Great Falls policy that parents do not go to the classroom to pick up their child.

If you are dropping in please stop by the office by 2:45 and notify the staff who you are picking up. Mrs. Murray will call your children to the gym. You will need to sign your child out at the sign-out table and then you are free to connect with your child and take him/her home.

We must receive a note from you indicating that your child may walk home at dismissal. Walkers will be dismissed after all buses have left the premises.

Early Release Days
There are eight scheduled early release days for development/conferences for teachers and administrators. They are noted on your school calendar. A reminder will be sent home with your child. Lunch will be served before dismissal at noon.  

Lunch and Recess
Students in kindergarten through grade 5 will have a forty-five minute lunch/recess period scheduled daily. Please send a daily snack with your child, as there will be a ten-minute snack break during the day.
Lunch and Recess Schedule
Lyons -K
Bryson - 1
Dupuis- 1
Levesque - K
Mosher -K
Lesperance -1
Kein - 1
Simpson - K
vanLuling - K
Sinnett - 1
Stevens - K
LaRosa - 2
Alves - 2
Kelly - 3
Henry - 3
Taylor - 2
Sturgis - 2
Leeper - 3
Walsh - 3
Mullin -5
Choate - 5
Sedenka - 4
Frailey - 4
Paolino -5
Sands - 5
Stanley - 4
Tibbitts - 4

Great Falls School is a K-5 community, which promotes and values opportunities for cross grade level and peer interactions. We incorporate a multi-age lunch and recess block that develops our great sense of school community. Providing a well supervised, organized, and safe multi-age lunch and recess allows our students to grow socially and emotionally in a less formal environment. The multi-age lunch and recess block has proven to be a great success as it further develops our students understanding of the school's Code of Conduct and positively shapes daily interactions for all of our students
Lunch Program
All students have the option to purchase breakfast, lunch, and milk. Elementary breakfast and lunch menus are printed monthly and sent home the last week of each month, and are also posted on the Food Services page of our school website, Menus include choice of 1 entrée, fresh vegetable, fruit, dessert when available, and 8 oz. milk. Middle and High School menus are posted daily. All menus must meet US Department of Agriculture standards, be highly acceptable for all students, be tasty, be prepared in a safe manner, and be served with a smile.
Students are given choices for entrees at breakfast and lunch. At our Elementary schools, teachers take a count each morning to see who is eating lunch, not to see who wants which meal. This way, students are free to choose any entree at mealtime. There is a full salad bar with fruits, vegetables, and condiments. Milk is offered with all meals - 1% white, skim, and 1% chocolate (at lunch only).

Cafeteria Expectations
  • Please enter the cafeteria quietly
  • Keep your hands and feet to yourself
  • Do not swap food
  • Be a respectful listener at all times
  • Please raise your hand if you need the attention of an adult
Free and Reduced Lunch
Applications for free and reduced meals must be completed each year and are processed by the Nutrition Office. Applications are sent home with students the first week of school, mailed, and are available in every school office and on the school district website any time during the school year if finance needs change. The free/reduced meals benefit applies to breakfast and lunch meals only, not snack milk, a la carte foods, vending, etc.
As students take a meal, their PIN will be recorded and their account charged. Each purchase must be tracked by federal regulations. No child ever needs to reveal whether they are free/reduced/paid. This is confidential information.
Pre-Pay Nutrition Account
All students have a PRE-PAY Nutrition Account. Students use a PIN for the Point of Sale System and their prepaid account. This system speeds up the lines, maintains confidentiality of Meal Benefits and provides better accounting.
When students enroll in any Gorham school, they are assigned a 4-5 digit Personal Identification Number. It is important that each student memorize their PIN as this number will be used daily. The PIN is confidential. At the cashier, they enter their PIN on the keypad, and pay with money from their prepaid account, with cash, or both. If students have enough money in their account, the price of the meal will be automatically deducted from the balance.

Parents may check all balances online for free ( or call the kitchens for the information. The account is only charged if they take the meal or item. If they donʼt eat, there is no charge. Any funds left over at the end of the year roll-over for the next year. All parents can view account balances, make deposits, see menus, view lunch purchases, even sign up for Automatic E-mail Alerts for low balances, and/or make automatic payments with any personal computer through the web site. PayPAMS is now FREE; on-line payments can now be made at no charge!
NOTE: If your account balance due reaches $25.00, until your balance due is resolved your child will be provided with an Alternate Meal instead of the standard breakfast or lunch entrée. This Alternate Meal will include all the components of a regular lunch but with a cheese sandwich in lieu of the standard entrée, and will b e charged at regular price.


The school nurse will notify parents of students with allergies to complete an allergy action plan in collaboration with the childʼs physician on an annual basis. Students who require emergency medications, such as inhalers (must complete an asthma plan) or Epipens, may self-carry with the written permission of their physician and parent. Parents will work with the nurse to set up instructions regarding snacks, meal choices, and field trip concerns at the start of each school year. There are students in the district who are latex allergic; therefore the only balloons allowed in the school building are Mylar balloons (NO LATEX BALLOONS).

Wellness Procedure
The Gorham School District is committed to providing a healthy eating environment
for all its students. We ask that parents do not send in any food for celebrations, such
as birthdays and holidays to be shared in classrooms. This does not include the daily
snacks that you send in for your own child, however we encourage you to provide
healthy options.

Instead of food, students can participate in a variety of creative activities during holiday celebrations. Non Food tokens such as stickers or pencils can be used to celebrate birthdays while promoting a healthier school environment.

We are asking for your support and help by keeping food items out of our school unless we request them for curriculum-based activities. We realize that this may require some adjustment to past practices, but we must adhere to the Gorham Wellness and Allergy Policies for the safety and wellness of all students.

Parents will be notified of all accidents occurring at school, except those requiring basic first aid. If the student needs follow up care at home or at the hospital, the parent is responsible for transporting the student (or their designated emergency contact person). For serious medical emergencies, the rescue department will be called.
Please notify the school office 222-1050 if your child is ill and will not be attending school. When you call the school office please state the childʼs symptoms and whether or not there is a fever 100 degrees or higher. Students who become ill at school will be dismissed only to the specific people listed on the emergency card unless the school is instructed by the parent to make other arrangements. All students who are ill at school should be seen by the school nurse prior to dismissal so common illnesses at school can be followed. If your child has an injury requiring any change in the daily school routines please contact the school nurse (for example; a broken arm, crutches, or a concussion).

Our goal is to ensure that every student attends school regularly. Positive attendance is a key ingredient to keeping kids on track academically and in engaging them in all aspects of school life.
Showing up for school has a huge impact on a student’s academic success starting in kindergarten and continuing through high school. Even as children grow older and more independent, families play a key role in making sure students get to school safely every day and understand why attendance is so important for success in school and in life. We realize some absences are unavoidable due to health problems or other circumstances. But, we also know that when students miss too much school— regardless of the reason – it can cause them to fall behind academically. Your child is less likely to succeed if he or she is chronically absent—which means missing 18 or more days over the course of an entire school year. Absences can add up quickly. A child is chronically absent if he or she misses just two days every month!!
Research shows:
-Children chronically absent in kindergarten and 1st grade are much less likely to read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade.
-Students can still fall behind if they miss just a day or two days every few weeks.

-Absences can affect the whole classroom.
Please ensure that your child attends school every day and arrives on time. Please familiarize yourself with the school calendar when scheduling for vacations and medical appointments.
Thank you for ensuring that Every Day Counts!

Student Information

Toys From Home
Although we understand that children want to share their toys and new possessions with their friends, we ask that toys (cards, figures, electronics, stuffed animals, fidget spinners etc.) from home not be brought into school or on the bus. Staff will not accept responsibility for any personal toys that are broken, lost or damaged in any way. When toys are brought in from home, they cause a distraction for your child and others. Exceptions will be made for students that require objects as part of their learning plan.
Field Trips
All field trips outside of the district or off school campus will require a permission form signed by parents of students participating in that field trip. Parent Chaperones MUST be registered and go through the appropriate training through the Gorham Center for Volunteers and Community Education office.

Lost and Found
Great Falls has an area for Lost and Found. Please encourage your child to check here for any lost items. Please mark lunch boxes, book bags, clothing, boots, balls, gloves and toys are marked with your childʼs name. Periodically, lost and found is cleaned out and items are given to Goodwill.

Extra Clothing
We advise that every student keep a spare set of clothes (shirt, pants, socks, and if available, shoes) in the classroom cubby, for the accidental spills at meal times, muddy or wet days on the playground, or bathroom accidents. Please plan ahead to avoid calling a parent for clothing needs during the school day.
Students Dress Code
Please make sure your child is properly dressed for school. If weather permits, all students go outside for recess. Students are asked not to wear hats inside the building during the school day or wear clothing that would be distracting to others in their work environment.

Examples of inappropriate clothing are as follows:
  • Clothing with reference to tobacco drugs or alcohol.
  • Clothing with suggestive language or graphics
  • See-through shirts or blouses
  • Clothing that exposes the studentʼs waist or midriff
  • Open toe “flip flop” types of sandals, or platform high-heeled shoes (these can be very dangerous while at recess) We encourage students to wear sneakers whenever possible. This ensures preparedness for PE and is the best choice for outdoor play.


Student Bus Procedures
The bus driver may assign seats. Students are expected to follow the school bus safety and awareness rules outlined by the Transportation Department. Our goal is to provide a safe bus ride for all students.
  • Board the bus in an orderly manner and listen to the driver at all times.
  • Take a seat and stay seated until the bus reaches your destination.
  • Talk in a normal tone so that you do not distract the driver.
  • Keep the aisle and the emergency exits clear of all belongings.      
  • Drinking and eating are not permitted on the bus.
  • Pointed or sharp objects such as pens, pencils, or scissors should be carried in a backpack.
  • Glass containers are not allowed on the bus.
  • Skateboards and other large sports equipment are not allowed on the bus.
  • Flammable materials, lighters, matches, and other such paraphernalia are not allowed on the bus.
  • Do not throw objects from the bus or put your head or hands out of the windows.
  • Do not deface, damage, or tamper with any of the bus equipment, including emergency exits. Anyone found doing so will not only lose transportation privileges, but will be required to pay for repairs.
  • Be courteous, use appropriate language.
  • Respect others' personal space and property.
  • Students are encourage to leave toys and valuables at home.
» 1st slip--written warning/detention/meet with administrator
» 2nd slip--suspended from bus privileges for two (2) days
» 3rd slip--suspended from bus privileges for five (5) days
» 4th slip--suspension to be determined from ten (10) days to remainder of school year.
» Serious safety infractions or unlawful acts may result in immediate loss of bus riding privileges at any time.
Bus regulations should be reviewed by parents and students together. Questions concerning transportation of students should be directed to the Director of Transportation, Norm Justice at 893-2547 or 893-2578.
Code of Conduct
With rights come responsibilities. Members of the school community are expected to demonstrate ethical and responsible behavior consistent with its core values. Such conduct is fundamental to a supportive, safe, and orderly school environment and a civil society.

The Gorham School Committee has established five core values.

A person who is respectful of oneself, others and the environment

A person who is honest in all endeavors

A person who is courageous in the face of ethical challenges

A person who is compassionate

A person who is responsible as an individual and as a member of a community

Great Falls Behavior Framework
At Great Falls Elementary School our goal is to provide our students with an environment conducive to learning; therefore, it is expected our students will display appropriate behavior on a daily basis. We strive to create and reach high expectations for all of our students’ behavior and academic progress. Family involvement in this process will play an integral part in our students’ overall success. Please take the time to discuss the components of this plan with your child. Teachers will keep families abreast of students’ inappropriate behaviors.

Individual teachers implement a variety of approaches and systems that best suit the needs of  their classrooms. In addition, Great Falls utilizes school-wide complementary processes.  Every instructional space has a “Solving Problems” poster in clear view of students outlining the general process that we want students to use when avoiding conflict or reflecting upon conflict. This provides a common language and way of thinking for every adult to access when working with students. The ideas are reviewed with students early in the school year, and revisited often.
Whenever appropriate, the processes and ideas of Restorative Justice are implemented. We ask our students to do their best to practice the ideals of the Code of Conduct in word and in action. If a student’s behavior impacts another member of our school community, they will be asked to Stop and Think, and are counseled to accept responsibility for their mistake and make amends. This process helps to build strong relationships and fosters a feeling of emotional safety at our school.

Bullying Prohibited
Bullying as defined in this policy is not acceptable conduct in Gorham Schools and is prohibited. Any student, parent, or school staff member may report a concern using the Gorham Schools Bullying Report Form, located here and in the Great Falls front office. Student bullying behavior may be addressed through behavioral interventions and social emotional supports. Any student who engages in conduct that constitutes bullying shall also be subject to disciplinary consequences up to and including suspension.

Fire Drills
Fire Drills will be done 10 times throughout the school year. The first few times will be announced to all staff and students ahead of of time.

Lockdown Drills
There will be two announced lockdown drills (Winter/Spring) with students during the school year.

We support and value parent involvement and communication. We encourage you to regularly (both formally through conferences and informally through email and phone calls) communicate with your child’s classroom teacher. If a question or concern arises, please call or email to discuss the issue with your child’s teacher as a first step.

Great Falls staff members can be contacted by email at any time or by phone during non instructional hours. Classroom teachers also have a website, blog, or wiki page that will list important information such as daily schedule, homework, and instructional links. Great Falls publishes a monthly school newsletter, The Great Falls Chatter, that will be posted to the school website at An automatic large group communication system, Blackboard, is used to send out emails and/or voice messages as necessary with important information. A monthly calendar is available online to keep you informed of the many Great Falls activities.

Parent Volunteers
Great Falls strives to improve and maintain community relations. Our goal is to broaden communication and interactions across our parent community and community at large. We encourage parents to volunteer in many capacities at our school. Whether you can assist in the classroom, chaperone a field trip, complete a project at home, participate in our Career Fair, or facilitate a Kids’ Club, we are always looking for parents to be involved in our school community.

Please complete the volunteer information found at as soon as possible, this needs to be filled out every year. You will also need to attend a volunteer orientation session if you have not done so. The first Great Falls volunteer orientation is scheduled for September 14th at 9am in the Great Falls cafeteria.

Great Falls will continue to host monthly parent meetings for parents that want to be involved in some way with the activities and events at the school. The meetings are called “The Parent Connection” and attendance is encouraged at any time. Attend a few times a year, once, or every month! Your ideas and contributions are always welcome. Look for more information about the “The Parent Connection” coming home with your child. The meetings will be held from 7-8pm in the Great Falls library.