Update from the Superintendent - March 14, 2024

Over the last few weeks, I have written about the Science of Reading and the importance of both phonics and comprehension as part of the process of reading. This is in response to recent research that strongly indicates balancing classroom literacy practices after decades of "whole language" approaches in schools across the United States. A literacy audit conducted as part of our Strategic Plan in 2018-19 found gaps in foundational literacy skills that led to examination of our instructional methodology. Over the last couple of years, elementary teachers and staff have begun learning more about approaches that align with the Science of Reading, such as the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, commonly known as LETRS. This course instructs teachers on the essential literacy skills that should be taught in alignment with evidence-based research, why these skills should be taught, and how to teach them. In the proposed FY 25 Budget Presentation, there are funds to support literacy efforts in grades PK-5 that align to the Science of Reading.

This is the last segment of a four-part series on the Science of Reading. If you missed my previous three segments, visit the links below:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

On Monday, the Board of Directors will be deciding whether to accept a draft concept design completed by Stephen Blatt Architects for an on-campus PK-1 primary school, proceed with the plan at 80 Gray Road in North Yarmouth, or go in a different direction. I am recommending to the Board that the on-campus plan be accepted, which encompasses a number of important improvements needed on campus to sustain a one-campus model:

  1. New PK-1 school building construction on-campus at the designated site recommended by the architect;
  2. Purchase of additional 0.5 acres of abutting land to support the new school building;
  3. Construction of a new maintenance building;
  4. Internal and external upgrades at Mabel I. Wilson School;
  5. On-campus improvements including road adjustments, traffic circulation upgrades, and parking improvements;
  6. Off-site improvements to Main Street and Tuttle Road in line with MDOT and Town of Cumberland plans; and
  7. Installation of an artificial turf surface on Hutchins Field to sustain play space necessary in maintaining a one-campus model for the long-term.

    To keep up-to-date on plans for the new school project, visit our dedicated web page at https://www.msad51.org/apps/pages/building_project.

As you are likely aware, on Monday, April 8 a total solar eclipse passes through Maine, a somewhat rare occurrence. I have been asked if the school schedule will be modified for that day as the eclipse timing in southern Maine is expected between 2:20-4:30 PM. In our part of the state, the eclipse is not forecasted to be at 100% totality and we plan to dismiss at the regular time on April 8 with no alterations to the full day schedule that day. NASA has provided information about the eclipse at: https://science.nasa.gov/eclipses/future-eclipses/eclipse-2024/faq/.