Dear Calais Families,
Welcome to the 2014-2015 school year! I hope that you’ve been able to enjoy some great moments with family and friends this summer. The weather has certainly cooperated with a generally mild menu of warm days and cool nights. I’ve recently returned from a successful trip to the family cabin in Maine, as measured in bruises and scratches. Rested and rejuvenated, I am ready to kick off a great year of working to ensure success for all students! Each year as we hit this time of planning staff development activities and of teachers working many long days to get rooms set up just so, I start remembering all the things I miss about school. I miss the big ticket items like Field Day’s slip and slide as well as the smaller treats like eating lunch with small groups of students and visiting classrooms to join in a lesson every now and again. I can’t wait to see everyone on Monday, August 25th.
Our first day will begin with a brief assembly for grades K-6 at 9:00 a.m. As always, we welcome families and neighbors to join in the event. Pre-kindergarten students will have a shortened first day; please see the enclosed pink letter from Mrs. Downing for more details.
Enclosed are bus routes for the school year. Please read the updated routes carefully to check for any changes. Especially at the start of the year, it is helpful if parents/guardians bring their children to pick-up spots several minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Routes have been planned to include all new students and all students who have taken the bus in previous years. If you will NOT be making use of the school bus at all, please notify Administrative Assistant, Sue Cioffi (454-7777 ext. 0 or
), right away. We want to be sure that our routes are as efficient and timely as possible.
Also included in this mailing are Community Connections forms to sign children up for before- and/or after-school care. Paula Despault will continue to serve as our site coordinator this year. In a similar vein, soccer forms from the Calais Recreation Association are enclosed as well.
Annual change of address and health update forms, along with our school handbook, will be sent home on the first day of school. By August 20th, the updated handbook will be available on the school’s website. Families are encouraged to review the handbook with students prior to the start of the school year. Of particular note this year are changes to the sections on student transportation and bullying, harassment, and hazing. Please note that state statute requires that we provide notice of hazing, harassment, and bullying policies and procedures prior to the start of school activities each year.
In this letter, I typically highlight a few key changes for the upcoming school year. Chief among these this year is a repeat of information about our food service program shared in June. Federal regulations and increasing costs in food mean that we will need to increase lunch and breakfast prices for the 2014-2015 year. Beginning in August 2014, student lunches will cost $3.00 and student breakfasts will cost $2.00. Second, rising costs of food, supplies, and staffing have led to a unanimous decision by the school board and the administration to cut our kitchen assistant position. This change in staffing, coupled with the continued struggle to run a food service program that breaks even, means we will no longer be providing snack through the kitchen. Instead, we will shift to a grab-and-go breakfast system in which an item included in the breakfast such as an apple or cheese slices can be saved for snack time. This ensures that families who qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch will still have free access to nutritious snacks. To be clear, each class will still have a dedicated snack time; the only change is that there will not be a separate snack provided by the kitchen. If you have questions about whether your child is using or should use our grab-and-go breakfast system, please contact Chef Carolyn Beauregard or your child’s classroom teacher.
We will continue to operate on a debit system – meals are to be prepaid. When making a deposit, please send checks made out to “Calais Elementary School” in an envelope clearly marked “Food Service.” We suggest beginning with a deposit of $30 to each child’s account; this will cover two weeks of full-priced lunches. You will receive periodic statements showing the balance of your children’s lunch accounts. Positive balances will be reported on white paper and negative balance reports will be sent home on pink paper. These pink sheets are NOT bills; they are over-draw notices. If you receive one of these statements, please make a deposit into your child’s account that will cover the over-draw as well as upcoming meals. If you have questions about the system or the status of an account, please contact Carolyn Beauregard at 454-7777 ext. 306 or
. Finally, please know that our Free and Reduced Price Meals program will continue. A cover letter and application for this program are included in this mailing.
A slightly food-related change to expect in the 2014-2015 school year is an adjustment to the lunch and recess schedule. Beginning on the first day of school, the lunch and recess block will begin at 12:30. Students in kindergarten through third grade will eat at 12:30 and students in grade four through 6 will eat at 1:00. This shift has been made to address the fact that our 9:00 start time gives us less of a morning, the time of day when we know most kids learn best. I am happy to announce that, in part due to this shift, Beth Downing, our highly skilled Pre-K teacher, has been able to sign on as our recess monitor.
A final change I am pleased to announce is the piloting of a program through the North Branch Nature Center called Educating Children Outdoors (ECO). Our first and second graders will participate in an outdoor lesson one afternoon every other week. ECO program coordinators have shared that in this program students explore standards-based themes that include (depending on the grade level): animal adaptations, life cycles, ecosystems, rocks and soil, scientific method, physical geography, mapping, cultural diversity, Vermont history (including native Vermonters), Vermont geography, and citizenship. This content will be presented through skill-based games, observing, journaling, building, drawing, writing, tracking, and sharing stories. We are looking forward to piloting this program with our 1/2 students and are particularly excited about the opportunity to work closely with NBNC staff to integrate these lessons with our classroom goals and instruction. First and second grade parents will receive a letter in the first weeks of school with more information about the program and related volunteer opportunities. Hands on Nature for first and second grade students will be integrated into ECO sessions while the regular Hand of Nature schedule of one monthly lesson will continue in kindergarten and grades three through six.
I would like to close with one last plug for our summer reading challenge. As I shared in June, we have a school-wide goal of 103,645 summer reading minutes. This number was determined by classroom teachers based on how much students at each grade level AND our staff members should read each day. I have been diligently logging my reading in anticipation of the special surprise reward the school will earn if our goal is reached. We greatly appreciate the support family members provide in keeping kids reading over the summer and remembering to jot down the minutes. We ask that all reading minutes be logged online or turned in on paper by Friday, August 29th.
Enjoy these last several days of summer – I hope each and every student and family is able to get in one last hike, barbecue, or trip to the lake!
See you soon!