Wednesday, May 26, 2021

 

 

SCS Day of Giving is this Thursday 5/27!

Everything is ready for our ONE BIG DAY of giving to Seacoast Community School in 2021 and you can be a part of it!  Each year our Annual Fund drive is used to support important parts of the SCS experience for every child and this year is no different.  What is different is that we are working with a website called "GiveCampus" and offering a single huge day to help make our goal!  On Thursday we will strive to get 100 donors in one day and target these gifts specifically for scholarships (which are always funded by the Annual Fund).  YOU CAN DO YOUR PART by clicking the link below to access the special donation portal.  The video on the giving page is SO GOOD you just have to see it!

LINK: https://www.givecampus.com/gzac0f

PLEASE HELP us reach our goal of 100 donors!  There are special "challenge gifts" offered by donors if we reach the 25, 50, 75, and 100 milestones so we need everyone to help with any level of gift.  SCS is a 501c3 nonprofit so every gift is tax deductible if you choose to claim it on your taxes.

Jamie Schaaf is On To Other Adventures

In the category of "all good things must come to an end", after twenty years of teaching, guiding, and overseeing children in our regular and summer PEAK Programs, Jamie Schaaf has decided to take a break and seek out new adventures elsewhere.  Jamie has been a mainstay of PEAK for such a long time that most folks can't imagine the program without him.  His creativity, kindness, vision, and care will be sorely missed.  He will be taking time off this summer, doing some adventuring, before setting new sites in the fall.  If you would like to congratulate or thank Jamie, he can be reached at: jayclimber9@gmail.com

SCS Reaches $15min Wage!

The Board's Strategic Plan formed with the help of the entire SCS Community three years ago called for examining the possibility of raising all teachers wages to reflect a target $15min wage.  Well, with a lot of help from the Finance Committee, the Business Office, and some timely grants/loans that goal has been reached two years ahead of schedule!  The pandemic has revealed that child care and after school care are critical to our entire economy and paying good wages to people who love to work with children is the key to making that happen.  With the entire wage scale shifted upward, now SCS teachers at every level can enjoy full benefits, free support for degree work, a great school atmosphere, and a healthy living wage.  Do you know someone who would benefit from our wonderful school and like to pursue a career in Early Childhood education?  Please contact Program Director
Alicia Tonelli at: Atonelli@Seacoastcommunityschool.org

 


Summer PEAK Ready to Roll!

Our annual summer program is all set to go with over 60 children enrolled to enjoy the pleasures of the summer season!  Located at Little Harbour School in Portsmouth the program will feature lots of outdoor activities, field trips, and visits by special guests all within a safe, COVID conscious atmosphere.  This year our program will be run by Miriam Morse and we are all looking forward to her special touch adding to the fun atmosphere!

 

Friday, March 19, 2021

 

Dear SCS Community,

I am writing this month in lieu of a traditional blogpost to update everyone on the status of our school after a year of dealing with the COVID19 Pandemic.  It was back in March of 2020 that our entire world at SCS was upended by the State of New Hampshire closing all schools due to the emerging pandemic.  Classes in our Early Childhood and After School Programs were shuttered with no known date of return.  At that moment we made the unique decision amongst our peer schools to continue to pay all faculty salaries in full and support all healthcare benefits, despite no assurances from the government that we would receive any help, and no plans to charge tuitions to our parents for the time they were home with their children.  It was a truly precarious moment and in my forty years in education I had never experienced anything like it.

 

During that time our community really stepped up and showed their mettle.  Teachers reached out to parents regularly with activities and online class meetings using a new technology called “Zoom” which we all learned on the fly.  Administrators continued to work from home every day and secured government loans, attended Health Department webinars, and eagerly awaited the latest news and directives from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  Our Board of Directors truly stepped up and met weekly to keep us afloat and moving forward.  Many parents contributed emergency funds freely to the school in our time of need (some continued to submit weekly childcare payments despite kids being home) and although we had been losing over $11,000 per week, kept the red ink from overwhelming us.  Hard work, smart advice from the Board, and a hearty New England commitment to survival pulled us through.

 

In June we reopened and about 60% of our families returned immediately.  Others were allowed to keep their children enrolled but at home without paying tuition until September.  We immediately instituted strict safety measures which included training the faculty on the new way we needed to run the school - masked and distanced.  We kept the communication with families steady and often included stakeholder surveys in our decision making processes.  By that fall over 90% of the Early Childhood families and 95% of the faculty, had returned to school.

 

The PEAK after school programs however were at the whim of the Portsmouth and Greenland Public Schools which had closed too, and our numbers dropped precipitously.  Entirely new schedules required that we create a daily morning program to teach classes and help serve parents.  Run at the Community Campus with the wonderful support of the Foundation for Seacoast Health, we kept each elementary school separated, and every child and faculty member safe.

 

Our sterling record of daily classes with no COVID19 lasted until December, when we finally had a positive case.  The long winter included a seemingly endless number of potential exposures to the virus with subsequent quarantines of faculty, parents, and children, but in the end only a handful of folks actually contracted it, and there was no general outbreak in any class.  This was in large part due to our vigilant adherence to following the rules and guidelines of the New Hampshire DHHS, the CDC in Atlanta, and of course Dr. Fauci himself!  Our good relationship with the Public Schools in Portsmouth allowed over 90% of our faculty and staff to be administered the first dose of the vaccine last weekend, and our move back toward normalcy took a giant step.  Everyone is looking forward to the time we can actually run like a normal school again.

 

Perhaps the most amazing part of our journey over the past year has been the experience of the children themselves.  Although some wore masks, most experienced every day in the classrooms just as normal, and without the drumbeat of the pandemic in the background.  Friends met every day, children explored new things, they laughed and played, and everyone learned to get along just as always.  SCS was a safe haven for every child in every class, and that was exactly what we strove to achieve.

 

My sincere thanks goes out to everyone who supported us over the past year - we really needed it!  We know that we are not fully out of the pandemic yet, but the light is on the horizon.  Special thanks to everyone who helped us reach our fundraising goals last year, and we sincerely hope you will help us again.  The altruism of our community, the resolve of our administration, the trust of our parents, the advice of our Board, and the sincere dedication of our faculty all combined to make it a year to remember. 

 

All the best,

Peter Gilmore

Executive Director

Seacoast Community School

PGilmore@Seacoastcommunityschool

 

Online Donations: http://seacoastcommunityschool.org/support-us

Friday, January 15, 2021

Happy New Year!

The long year of 2020 is behind us and we are on to 2021!  Though this past year looked so very different than ones before, we can confidently say that our school leaped over hurdles and persevered with great success.  Throughout the many changes that have occurred, the bright light that has kept us all going is the children in our care each and every day. The smiling faces, laughter and learning that has continued to thrive at SCS shows us all how important our jobs are here - we have remained a safe, familiar place for children during an otherwise unfamiliar time. 

SCS Holds it Together Through Pandemic

A lot of you may be wondering how the school is doing financially during this rough time for all non-profits.  Well, I am glad to say that we are holding our own!  Keeping all our faculty employed and with full benefits is a huge strain on our budget given that we only have safe spaces for so many children, but we are making it by (still in the red, but making it).  We have applied for every loan, grant, and gift available to us and that has helped enormously.  Private gifts to SCS have helped us keep on track with our fundraising too, and the end of the calendar year request for donations was certainly successful.  Do you know of a granting institution, foundation, or private source willing to help us?  Please just contact me at PGilmore@seacoastcommunityschool.org.

SCS Main Campus Gather Food Drive - Another Success!

The classrooms at the main campus worked together during the month of November to collect food donations for the Gather Food Pantry - we are happy to report that we collected 134 pounds of food for our local community. We are grateful for the families and community members who participate in this yearly event and for the Stingray classroom who has hosted this drive for the past two years.


Winter Wonderland

With the colder, snowy weather comes many exciting outdoor adventures for all of our classrooms. As always, our teachers strive to create invigorating and meaningful outdoor experiences for children each day. Our nature trails have been busy with small feet exploring them - a favorite activity of our preschool students has been looking for animal footprints in the snow and ice.  It seems that squirrels and birds frequent the trails often and are the footprints discovered the most! 

Our older toddler classrooms have been exploring the outdoors using their senses - what better way to enjoy the snow than making snow angels and snow balls with your friends?  Our younger toddler classrooms have enjoyed exploring the snow removal equipment parked at the campus from a distance - they have been astounded by the size of the trucks and request to visit the parked vehicles often. As the winter continues and more snow falls, we know there will be many other enjoyable activities happening around our beautiful outdoor campus!

SCS Teachers Complete PTAN Training Series

During the months of October and November, the majority of our teachers participated in a 5 part e-learning series lead by the Preschool Technical Assistance Network. This training series focused on promoting social skills in the classroom, and trauma informed care for children - these topics tie nicely into this year's C.A.R.E.S theme of 'empathy'. The teachers and administration at SCS are always working towards adding more tools to their toolboxes and are continually working towards personal and school-wide professional development goals. 




 

Friday, November 6, 2020

An Autumn to Remember

 

Autumn is a Great Time - Even This Year!  Many New Englanders live and stay up north just so that they can experience the fall season - and so far this one has had wonderful weather!  At SCS we use every chance we get to bring kids out into the 80+ acres of open woodlands, fields, and preservation areas around our building.  They love exploring the woods, meeting furry critters, and playing in the thousands of colorful leaves, and this year our morning PEAK classes get to join in the fun.  Teachers use lots of activities to take advantage of our surroundings and safely expose the children to all kinds of fascinating things.  (The local turkey flock complete with a huge brilliantly colored Tom is a special treat.)  Kids and the great outdoors - what a combo!

Thanksgiving During COVID:  OK, so we made it through the summer, and we made it mostly through the fall with no shut-downs; 100+ days of school open and safe!  Now for the holiday season.  Here are some tips for keeping your family safe, and insuring the integrity of the school community, during the upcoming holiday:

  • Be sure to practice all the safe habits we have been advised by the CDC to do - this is no time to let down your guard about hand washing, masking, distancing, etc.
  • Play outside!!  We are all going to rediscover the joys of winter activities!
  • Monitor your kids for COVID symptoms and be sure to set up a quarantine area in your home if need be to keep everyone else safe.
  • To be extra safe, consider returning to SCS or PEAK after 5 days have passed from a Thanksgiving Day gathering, and getting a negative test result on the 5th day (December 2nd).  Some schools are closing for Monday and Tuesday of the week following the holiday for this reason.  We are re-opening Monday as usual.
  • Grab and Go Thanksgiving: Sitting indoors around a table eating and talking without masks is a recipe for a spreader event - try to make it just as fun without any of this going on.
  • Open a window whenever gathering indoors.  New research shows that fresh air is a great virus-deterrent in an enclosed space when people are together.
  • Please don't travel outside New England.  If you do, you'll have to wait 14 days after your return to rejoin SCS.

Important Date: November 12th is 14 days before Thanksgiving.  You can have visitors outside New England start self-quarantining here (in a hotel presumably) or in their homes from that day onward and they will be safe to visit you for Thanksgiving gatherings.  They cannot break quarantine and cannot be exposed on their trip to New Hampshire in order for this to work.  Obviously they can start quarantining earlier too.


Annual Fund Launches!  Each year the SCS Annual Fund makes up the difference between the cost of the program that your children enjoy and the actual tuition revenue we bring in - it's critical!  Last year we enjoyed more support than ever as we reached our goal of $75,000 and then some.  This year we are seeking a goal of $85,000 and with your help we can make it.  Note: A special week of giving will take place during Winter Spirit Week December 14th-18th.  Using a new online tool called "GiveCampus", this week will have a special focus on scholarships for our lower income families.  Look for more information on how you can help SCS families during Spirit Week in the days ahead. 


At Home Test Kits for COVID  Ever wonder how we get our faculty tested so quickly and back in the classroom after any questionable illness?  We know that eliminating COVID as a possibility is the best way to keep everyone safe so we encourage all our teachers to have a home test kit at their bedside.  These kits work great, are perfectly comfortable, and most insurance plans in New Hampshire pick up the cost.  Even if you do not have symptoms, as long as you work in a congested environment (like a school!) you can get them mailed to you and processed for free.  The FedEx shipping to/from is free too and results come online in under two days.  Order your kit online: www.pixel.labcorp.com

Grandparent Adventures:  What is the best way to enjoy the Grandparents/kids when you can't really be together and our traditional Grandparents Day at SCS gets cancelled?  Well, we are starting a series of inter-generational adventures and the first event is coming soon.  The "Online Hug" will be a great opportunity for you to have interactions and show how much you care for each other!  Watch for details from SCS and your classroom teacher soon!


 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

SCS: Safe Place - Fun Place!

SCS Invites Returning Families to a Safe School:  When we reopened the school in June we gave all current families the choice of returning to SCS right away or waiting until the end of summer.  About 60% of families re-enrolled immediately, while the remainder chose September.  Well, here we are and over 90% of our "prodigal" families have returned to SCS once again!  Our record of running a safe school through small class sizes, distanced class groups, screening, and mask wearing has left us with a sterling record against infections - and we fully plan on keeping that record intact!

Aarohi

Welcome New SCS Families!  Fall is such a great time of year - and in schools, always filled with the feelings of starting something fresh.  It means new beginnings, friends, and the academic year.  All this is underscored at SCS this September by the large number of new families now in attendance.  Serving "all children" of the seacoast means being open to literally everyone; including all socioeconomic groups, races, classes, religions, and orientations of people in our area.  As always, many of our new families are a diverse reflection of the seacoast.  Welcome everyone!

SCS Parents Committee Needs You!  The SCS Parents Committee will be forming up soon for the 2020-21 school year - WE NEED YOUR HELP!  Be involved in making SCS the best it can be by joining a great group of folks who want to have fun doing it.  Contact Marketing and Development Coordinator Sarah Fleck at SFleck@Seacoastcommunityschool.org now!
 
 Sorry, But Don't Save the Dates!  Due to the SCS pandemic policies we will not be having our traditional Fall Parent Potluck at Community Campus this year, and our traditional Grandparent's Day is in the process of being changed to an online event.  We apologize for all this but it is the way of schools today to keep people distanced as much as possible.  That said, we are also trying to figure out how to still run the yearly Halloween Parade (we simply cannot be without that!) so stay tuned.

  Imagination Library Keeps the Free Books FlowingUpon entering SCS every new student under the age of 5 is offered the opportunity to join our school reading initiative called Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.   Free, brand new, reading books arrive monthly to children - starting with the introductory book "The Little Engine That Could".  The book selections are refreshed each year but contain popular repeats and classics too.  If you are enrolled in SCS (or have non-SCS siblings under 5) and are not already signed up, you can get free reading books too.  Just contact Amie Cole in the main office at ACole@Seacoastcommunityschool.org.  The books are age appropriate, and intended to be read by parents to their kids.  The Portsmouth Elks have sponsored our free book program for the past few years!

Annual Seacoast Community School C.A.R.E.S. Theme "Empathy":  This year's school theme could not be more appropriate.  To us, Empathy means putting ourselves in other people's places and understanding their experiences.  It means recognizing that all people have feelings, hopes and good reasons for what they do and think.  It is an appreciation for diversity, and it is being patient, forgiving, and affirming of others because we feel for them.  It inspires us to be giving and unselfish.  All the teachers and classes will be working Empathy into their experiences and daily activities this year, so feel free to help us celebrate!
Fiona
 
Brightwheel Contacts Made Easy:  Are you looking to add family and friends to your Brightwheel account so they can join in the fun of seeing happy kids everyday?  As a fellow grandparent I know how important that can be!  Choosing the right permissions will allow folks the right access.  Below is a quick link to a helpful page showing what permissions parents can grant to Contacts.  Btw, Emergency Contacts can't get pictures or be Approved Pick-ups but family members can - so, if you want someone to have both those privileges you should enter them twice; once as a Family member and once as an Emergency Contact.

 
Jeyronell


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

That's Some Good Summer

Brightwheel Launches and Parents Love it: Who said it was crazy to launch an entire new computer application when we reopened in June (just about everybody) but now they are singing a new tune as we brought app-based school communications to SCS!  Parents have been really enjoying the "feed" function as it keeps them abreast of what is going on with their kids each day, and the finance capabilities have revolutionized life in the Business Office (imagine not handling all those paper checks!)  Want to learn more about the software?  Go to MyBrightwheel.com or click on the image below.
 

Brightwheel Contacts made easy:  Are you looking to add family and friends to your Brightwheel account so they can join in the fun of seeing happy kids everyday?  As a fellow grandparent I know how important that can be!  Choosing the right permissions will allow folks the right access.  Below is a quick link to a helpful page showing what permissions parents can grant to Contacts.  Btw, Emergency Contacts can't get pictures or be Approved Pick-ups but family members can - so, if you want someone to have both those privileges you should enter them twice; once as a Family member and once as an Emergency Contact.


Summer Fun at Community Campus

Kids and Teachers are Having a Great Time!

Summer PEAK and Summer ECE loving the outdoors:  Being outdoors all day is the best part of summer but being there with your classmates is extra fun.  With the PEAK Program taking place at the Community Campus this year we have been witnessing all the great moments our PEAK kids enjoy right from our own windows!  Not to be outdone the ECE Program has added extra time out in the wild 90+ acres of woodlands that surround us with outdoor classroom, sprinkler, and extended playground adventures happening regularly.  It is just wonderful to have the school back in session and watching everyone enjoying themselves!


PEAK Kids Enjoying the Campus


Annual Fund Closes in on Record Setting Goal!  Nobody.  Not nohow.  Nobody thought we could come anywhere near our fundraising goal of $75,000 this year - but we on the Development Committee secretly knew that the SCS Community had it in them!  Well, we are on the verge of reaching our RECORD SETTING Goal this year and you can still be part of it all!  Just click the link below to help make a great school even greater - but you have to do it NOW as the Annual Fund closes TODAY!

LINK: Donate TODAY!



Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Springtime Update


SCS "Show the Love" Parade Happening May 12thHow can you keep your children happy to see their teachers for real and "Show the Love"?  Bring your kids to the drive-by Teacher Parade at the Community Campus at 3:30pm on 5/12.  Every ECE class and PEAK site will be represented by a live teacher as you cruise your kids-in-cars along and enjoy the creative and decorative displays!  See you there!


Reopening Date Still Uncertain:  As we adhere to the guidance of Governor Sununu's Task Force for Reopening New Hampshire, our reopening date keeps getting pushed back. We are all anxiously awaiting for the time childcare centers can once again safely serve their families.  At this point we do not see SCS opening before June 1st, and our next target dates will be June 15th, or 29th.  Whatever happens, we will be in touch with you well before the official reopening date to guide you in new procedures, policies, and program adjustments.  We know this is a difficult situation for families, faculty, and everyone involved in our regular operations as a school; we want more than anything to have happy and healthy kids back in our care!


 Parent and Teacher Surveys Provide Good Data:  Thanks to everyone in our parent base as well as on the faculty for providing responses to our recent surveys.  It was clear from the results that some folks would like us reopening as soon as possible and some not until all is back to normal, but the majority want us to wait until the stars align for a safe and sensible reopening in accordance with government guidance.  Everyone was in agreement that there will be policy and procedural changes reflective of our need for a safe environment for all.  One of the most prevalent themes was that our community trusts that we are doing our best to make the right decisions, and we SO appreciate that support!


 Introducing "Brightwheel" Our New Administration Software!  As many of you know we have been looking to upgrade our computer software and systems to better serve parents, and to that end we have recently chosen a new platform for all our administrative tasks.  Originally set up as a pilot program back in March, we have decided to use the time we have available now to move the entire school to the new software.  All parents/guardians/teachers should look for an invitation email that instructs you to download the Brightwheel App, and register with the new system.  Everyone is REQUIRED to do this so please take a moment as soon as you receive the invitation.  The new software will allow a variety of payment methods, add new communication channels, and store lots of important data for kids and teachers.  The new systems will become active on the day we reopen!

 Summer PEAK Update:  Despite a number of other summer programs cancelling for the summer, as of this point we are trying to maintain our commitment to working families by running our Summer PEAK program for 5-12 year olds.  This year it will probably take place at the Community Campus (we do not have permission from the Public School as of yet for our usual site) and involve a more traditional (albeit viral-safe) approach to summer fun.  Our Program Director for Summer PEAK, Jamie Schaaf will be sending individual emails to all parents currently signed up giving more specifics including information on deposits, timelines, and highlights of the program.  

 

 SCS Annual Fund Provides Opportunities for Giving: Have you been looking for ways to help SCS during our shut-down?  Are you running a positive balance in your SCS Account?  Just contact Finance Manager Corrine Morse at CMorse@Seacoastcommunityschool.org and tell her that you would like to donate your balance.  Many families have already taken this opportunity to help us when we need it most and it has made a BIG difference in the fund!  Not a parent? You can donate directly at http://www.seacoastcommunityschool.org/support-us.  Keep your favorite teachers at your favorite school - give now!