It is hard to believe that it is already April and we have entered what many would call the busiest stretch of the school year. I know I should not say this, but it does seem more and more like spring and less likely for winter weather to interrupt our days. Our spring sports seasons are underway with opening-season competitions happening this week. Our Mid-Semester 2 Grade Reports close this Friday (4/5) and we are less than two weeks away from April vacation. So yes, spring is in the air at 826 High Street!
Our annual Freshmen Awareness program occurred two weeks ago. We are not completely certain how many years this program has run, but we feel that it is over thirty years since it began as sophomore awareness. In the years since the program’s inception, the topics and programs have changed significantly; however, the focus has remained intact: we pause our regular academic programs to focus on aspects of student lives that could get in the way of their goals. Topics such as substance use, healthy relationships, and bullying and kindness were covered this year. We have partnered with the Mid Coast Alliance to coordinate programming. One of this year’s highlights was a visit from the New England Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. This visit was arranged by Morse ninth-grade student and state ambassador for the Fuel up to Play 360 program, Kennedy St. Pierre.
I do hope that you had an opportunity to attend a Unified Basketball game this winter; what a season it was! Morse had two post-season upsets, beating #1 seated Gray-New Gloucester on their home court and Lisbon as well. The team was defeated by Westbrook in a very close regional final game. Despite the hour drive, Morse fans outnumbered Westbrook on their home court; the game had great energy and we are proud of these student-athletes. These unified programs have been tremendous for the culture of our student body. We have slowly expanded the unified model to include a Unified PE class and, most recently, a Unified Guitar class.
Morse brought another student-written play to the MPA One Act festival this year. Congratulations to the cast, crew, and playwright Emily Minott for a very funny, smart, and exciting play “A Man of the Past.”
Morse’s renewed Math Team is headed to the state meet this week. Despite being the first season of our return to competition, the team has made great progress and learned a great deal while having fun and making connections with peers!
Progress on the new Morse High School / BRCTC building is moving along as scheduled. The site work is almost complete. Crooker Construction has moved an enormous amount of earth to make way for our new school and fields above Congress Ave. Our general contractor, Harvey Construction, will begin moving equipment to the site this week and we should start to see concrete taking shape by the middle of this month. Although we are on schedule, the projected opening has been pushed-back to the middle of the 2020-2021 school year due to the concern of securing all of the subcontractors during this period of increased building in our area.
The details of our new building are coming together. We are now focused on internal colors, finishes, furniture, technology, and art in common areas. Committees have been formed to advise all of these decisions. I know I will miss this old building at 826 High Street, but the new building will be truly fantastic.
Morse has formed a committee to explore new bell schedules to support our programming in the new school. The committee has currently narrowed our focus down to six possible schedules. Our next step is to ascertain feedback from all Morse faculty members early next month. This feedback will be brought back to the scheduling committee for analysis in order to help us narrow our focus on what would work best for our values as a school. Eventually, we will be seeking more targeted feedback from Morse students and their families.
Since the school board has approved the adoption of new ALICE protocols in our response to a threat to school safety, we have moved ahead with implementation. To date, Morse and BRCTC have conducted three school-wide teaching sessions and drills. These drills allowed students to learn about the new options, ask questions, and discuss as a class. Our second drill also included talking through our evacuation routes to the rally point at the YMCA as well as barricading techniques. We conducted our third drill on 3/18; this drill required teachers and students to respond to a hypothetical school threat. Overall, students and faculty handled this difficult topic very well. We have been able to meet as a faculty after each drill and identify improvements for the following drill. Although this is a difficult subject, one which none of us enjoy focusing on, I do feel that these efforts are improving school safety.
This week begins our annual eleventh-grade achievement testing. We start with the state science test this week during regular school hours. April 9th is the school-day SAT test for all eleventh-grade students. It is very important that we have everyone in attendance with a good night’s sleep on April 9th. Students will be testing in their advisories and, new this year, we will be providing both breakfast and lunch for students, free of charge. Good luck to our grade 11 students!
On April 9th, our grade 9 and grade 10 students will be traveling to Bowdoin and Thomas Colleges respectively. This is an opportunity to see a college campus and gain aspirations towards post-secondary planning. These trips will also incorporate assignments from both History and English classes. Please make every effort to have your students attend these trips during the school day of April 9th.
April 9th is our annual Senior Day of Service, when we ask our graduating seniors to volunteer their efforts to give back to an aspect of their community that helped them in the past. Please ask your senior students what their plans are; if they are struggling to establish a plan, their school counselor is willing to help.
Morse School Counselors have been meeting with incoming students of the class of 2023 and their families from Bath Middle School and Woolwich Central School over the past weeks. We have had our initial parent night for the class of 2023 at Morse about a month ago and it was very well-attended. The class of 2019 has had their first meetings with administration to plan for graduation; caps and gowns have been ordered. Seniors should pay close attention to the graduation schedule that is included from Ms. Gallice.
The school year is moving fast. I look forward to the last several weeks of school as we all work towards our goals of personal growth. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.
Eric J. Varney
Morse High School