June 18, 2021   
Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
This incredibly difficult school year has come to a close. Working together, we have weathered unprecedented challenges and were successful in keeping students learning safely. I am so grateful to everyone – staff, families and students – for all your cooperation, hard work and perseverance to make that possible. I can’t thank you enough. 
I am immensely proud of what we were able to accomplish this past year, as we now turn our focus to plans for a full return to learning in the 2021-2022 school year.
Our summer programs have already begun. They include school-based programs, to which we have invited students who we believe will most benefit, and community partner programs. We are very excited to be partnering with organizations and camps across Greater Portland to offer free seats in camps and programs to students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. However, a handful of camp seats are still open and are now available to any family, regardless of income, on a first-come, first-serve basis. If your family is interested, read on in this newsletter for information on how to apply

For our summer programs, we have come to an agreement with teachers for a revised set of health and safety protocols for summer, including continuing to require masks and physical distancing for students indoors. Although the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) last week ended the state’s mask requirement for public schools as of July 1, MDOE is still recommending masks – especially for those who are unvaccinated, including students under 12.

As we look ahead, health and safety guidelines are evolving rapidly.  This past week, the Maine CDC and MDOE removed all physical distancing requirements for next year – something that we had noted was critical to our ability to bring students back full time. Those spacing requirements were particularly problematic for meals and transportation, but this news further assures us that we’ll be able to bring all of our students back to five full days of instruction per week. 
As for the MDOE masking recommendation, we will be carefully studying that ahead of next school year, particularly for the lower grades, where students are not vaccinated at this time.

We have seen more than 300 cases in our schools this year, with thousands of students forced to quarantine as close contacts. I thank everyone for their vigilance, resilience and commitment to safety during this difficult year filled with restrictions and changing requirements. You all helped keep our students learning in person this year.  As summer begins, I beg those of you not yet vaccinated to continue that commitment to safety by getting your shot. As a bonus, if you do so by June 30, you and anyone you know 12 and older who’s vaccinated can register for a new state “Don’t Miss Your Shot” sweepstakes, in which you can potentially win close to a $1 million. You’ll also help ensure everyone’s safety when we return to school this fall. Here’s a link to vaccination sites.
We wait while the Maine Legislature winds down its work for this session, including considering Gov. Janet Mills’ proposed $187 million supplemental budget for education. If that supplemental funding passes, it would increase the state’s share of statewide school funding to a voter-mandated 55 percent, and our district could receive an additional $6.2 million in state education aid for this coming school year. We have a Board of Public Education Finance Committee scheduled for Monday, June 21, to consider options for using these funds, if they are approved. The committee’s recommendations would need Board and City Council approval. If that work is completed by mid-July, it will allow us to have the changes reflected in this year's tax bills.
As tough as this year has been, we plan to use the important lessons and insights about what worked and what didn’t to help us reimagine education as we return to school this fall. We’ll take a hiatus from this regular Staff & Community Newsletter for now, but will be back in touch later this summer with more specific plans for the 2021-2022 school year. In the meantime, I wish everyone a restorative Maine summer!

Xavier Botana, Superintendent


This link has the latest information on clinics and vaccine opportunities, travel guidelines, distancing, use of masks, cleaning, and COVID-19 testing. 

The Portland Public Schools puts out a weekly COVID advisory each Friday. It includes the number of positive cases associated with our schools during the past week and any outbreak declarations or building closures as a result. Staff, families and staff at impacted schools are immediately notified of positive cases and closings, but the weekly advisory is an effort to keep the broader PPS community informed. The advisory typically is posted at the end of the day on Fridays in the District Spotlight section of the district's homepage. Here’s the link to the June 18th weekly update.

Superintendent Xavier Botana gives a shout-out to our amazing school secretaries in his June column in The Forecaster. Casco Bay High School lead secretary Deb Kierstead is featured. Read more here
33 Portland Adult Education alumni have graduated from college in the past week, 5 from USM and 28 from SMCC. Congratulations to these incredible students for persevering during an incredibly challenging year! Read more here.

Five Portland High School seniors recently graduated from the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute, designed to help young women develop the skills required to be leaders in their lives, families, careers, and communities. The five Portland High School “Olympia’s Leaders” are Ella Whelan Anderson, Skye Ferris, Dalycia Greeley, Ange Ishimwe and Lucia Stone. Learn more about these outstanding new leaders here
The Portland Board of Public Education voted June 15 to adopt a new Equity Policy, following a first read and workshop on June 1. The purpose of this policy is to respond to and redress inequities in our school system and identify the ways in which the Portland Public Schools will be accountable for centering equity in all aspects of our work.
The policy establishes a shared definition for “equity” and serves as a guide by which to evaluate all other policies, practices, and procedures throughout the district. We will be working on helping all staff and students know about, understand and act in a manner consistent with the policy. Read the policy here

Videos are now available of the Deering, Portland and Casco Bay high school
commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2021. Enjoy!
DHSPHSCBHS. You can also read about the graduations and see photos on our website at this link.
As a part of our summer programming, we are thrilled to be partnering with organizations and camps across Greater Portland. In alignment with our Equity goal, we are offering seats in camps and programs to students and families who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. As the summer gets underway, we are noticing that a small handful of camp seats are still open due to last-minute changes or other logistical issues. We want to open up these seats to any family, regardless of income, on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Please go to our website here to find the current openings if you are interested in potentially taking advantage of these remaining spots. If you find a camp that you do want to request, please email Nicole Bradeen, the Community Partners Summer Coordinator (, to let her know about your interest. Her contact information is also available on the website where you will see the list of openings. Please note that this list will change throughout the summer as cancellations happen and so feel free to check back periodically to see if there's an opportunity you want to take advantage of. Happy summer!
The district now has a subscription to a great eBook and audiobook platform called SORA. SORA can be used as an app on any smart device or through the website at Students can use SORA to access a fantastic collection of new and popular fiction and nonfiction titles. Click here for a tutorial on how to get started. Happy summer reading!

The district will be operating various summer meal sites across the city of Portland this summer. Meals and times will be posted at sites, and maps have been distributed to students at school and are posted online here

New this year is a neighborhood truck route. This Food Service Truck will be delivering to 10 stops daily, M-F, in local neighborhoods. The truck will operate June 21- August 20. School sites will begin operation on June 28 and continue through July 29, and some through August 13, Monday-Thursday. Here's a map of sites and food truck stops.

All children and teens 18 years and younger may receive a meal free of charge, on a first-come, first-serve basis, at any of the meal site locations. There will be no meal service on Monday, July 5th.

To get more information about sites and times, you may dial 2-1-1, text “Summer Meals” to 97779, or go online to the USDA Food and Nutrition Services page or our website.

The Portland Public Schools and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are equal opportunity providers and employers. Learn more here.

Students from Longfellow Elementary School wrote a beautiful school-wide poem inspired by the "Malaga Girl" painting by renowned Portland artist Daniel Minter. Learn more and read the poem here.

Painting for a Purpose is a group of volunteers who are united to raise funds for Portland Public Schools youth-led service-learning projects. After a long year of painting over Zoom and selling online, Painting for a Purpose is so excited to be back – with a Summer Craft Sale on July 17, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 24 Cove Road in Freeport. Painting for a Purpose has gotten more creative than ever and is now stocked with many colorful pieces to brighten your day. Browse their whimsically painted items including lobsters, birds, fish, garden totems, rabbits, flower pots, trays and more!

In the past 11 years, Painting for a Purpose has funded nearly 100 grants  to students who are committed to making a change in their communities. Check them out here. RSVP on Facebook and invite your friends here
This June 17 Maine Public story on outdoor learning features Talbot Community School teacher and 2021 Teacher of the Year Cindy Soule and also Brooke Teller, the district’s outdoor learning coordinator. Brooke told Maine Public, "We can't look at this as just the crisis fix. This is something that's going to be good for our students long term.” Listen to or read the story, titled “The Pandemic Brought Many Maine Classrooms Outside, Now Educators Want To Keep It That Way," here


Seeds of Peace Camp has openings for lifeguards and male-identifying counselors. Campers this summer are coming from New York, Boston, and Maine to discuss the most pressing social issues facing our communities. For campers, this is an opportunity to disconnect from a year of online schooling and socializing to learn how to engage with other campers on their perspectives, opinions, and beliefs. For staff, this is an opportunity to engage in a process of community building, intentional communication, and youth development. Staff also build relationships and networks with a diverse cohort of professionals from around the Northeast. Counselors are key to helping campers develop a sense of self that is confident, thoughtful, and compassionate. 

All staff are on site from June 27th to August 18th.  Counselors must be over 21, passionately motivated, and ready to learn. If you are interested or know somebody who might be, please email Spencer Traylor at You can learn more about the positions here.
Looking for a fun outdoor event for kids that benefits PPS? Sign up for the 2021 Portland Kids Duathlon!  Presented by Benchmark Real Estate, it's run just like adult races with timing, swag, blow-up finish line, food trucks, race photos, and more. Sunday, July 25th at 8:00 a.m. is the in-person event for ages 3-12 and there's also a virtual option for kids of all ages.

All money raised through this event is donated to support the Foundation for Portland Public Schools. Visit our website for more information and to register. Volunteers very much needed too! Short commitment, long smiles!

The New England Arab American Organization wants to introduce you to a new program called SOAR, in case you know any young people who would like to participate.  The commitment will be once a week from June to October—and maybe beyond if they would like to continue. 

SOAR—Students for Opportunity, Advocacy and Respect—offers a safe space for students to discuss issues impacting BIPOC youth and support one another while learning new skills (like filmmaking) and experiencing new activities (like kayaking, ziplining).  Their primary interest is inviting BIPOC and New Mainer youth.

They are looking for students in grades 9-12 and will pay a small stipend for participation.  Also part of the program is performing a major needs assessment of area youth attitudes. They are getting help from the National Center for Arab American Philanthropy to lead SOAR participants through the process—which will be a good addition to any applications for work, college, or vocational school. If you know any students who might be interested, please send your email at or call Zoe at 347-0249. Please spread to your networks! 
We are hiring two Americorp VISTA positions, see the postings below. The application and more information can be found here for the PPS position and here for the Mulitilingual and Multicultural Center position. Spread the word! 
Happy Juneteenth! Historically, Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 – more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation – the day on which the last enslaved people, who were held in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom.

Juneteenth serves as a day of reflection, recognition, and restoration. It is an opportunity to host open dialogues about race, equity, and inclusion – starting at home. Please see this resource  for more information about Juneteenth. Additionally, learn more about Portland's racial history through this event with the Atlantic Black Box Project and the Indigo Arts Alliance.  
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