May 21, 2021    
Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
COVID-19 restrictions are loosening in Maine and other states in response to U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations. However, guidance from the CDC says that schools should continue to use the current COVID-19 prevention strategies for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year.
The Maine Department of Education (MDOE) issued updated guidance this week based on the CDC recommendations and recent announcements from Governor Janet Mills. We are reviewing the new recommendations from MDOE with our school leaders and teacher representatives to assess the feasibility of implementing any changes prior to the close of the current school year. 
We will let everyone know of any new developments resulting from those talks next week. However, I want to be clear that we plan to keep our current school schedules throughout the remainder of this school year.
Also, please remember that, despite recent positive developments, COVID still poses a risk. The number of positive cases associated with our schools is trending lower but can still be disruptive to schooling when unvaccinated close contacts have to quarantine. We encourage families to get their children 12 and older vaccinated. One advantage is not having to quarantine if you’re a close contact! Learn more about where to get vaccinated in our Health Updates document. 
In other news, the Board of Public Education voted on May 18 to adjust our school start and end times for the 2021-2022 school year.  The Board also voted to adopt a resolution committing it to make secondary school start times consistent with scientific adolescent sleep knowledge for the 2022-23 school year.
Extensive research shows that adolescent biorhythms are inconsistent with traditional school schedules. Studies show that when schools start later, allowing adolescents to get enough sleep, it improves their health, academic performance, and quality of life.
We realize that start time changes can create logistical complexities for families and students and we are working to mitigate them. The Board has directed me to use the coming school year to help our community understand the importance of this transition and to understand and plan for the challenges associated with making the shift to even later start times. 
The Board also voted May 18 to approve revisions to a number of Board policies governing student discipline. Overall, the changes are designed to move the district away from a punitive approach to one that involves tiered interventions and supports. The revisions are aligned to our equity goal in the Portland Promise, the district’s strategic plan. which commits the district to reviewing current policies that create barriers to opportunity. PPS school discipline data over time show that our students of color, low-income students and students with special needs are disciplined more often than other students.  The changes are a step toward addressing this. Read more details in this newsletter.
I’ll close by reminding everyone of the City of Portland’s special municipal election on June 8 for the community to vote on our equity-based FY22 school budget and on City Charter commissioners. Absentee voting is open. Get voting information here.
We received preliminary information this week from MDOE about the impact of Gov. Mills’ proposed supplemental budget for education.  As you may know, the governor has proposed adding $187 million in education funding to the state’s new two-year budget. Pending the Legislature’s approval, that would increase the state’s share of school funding to 55 percent, fulfilling a mandate approved by Maine voters 17 years ago.   I am grateful to the Governor for her unprecedented support for public education.
If the funding is approved, PPS would receive an additional $6 million for this coming school year. We currently have the ability to accept that funding in the FY22 budget.  If it comes to pass, the Board and City Council will need to decide how it is allocated. As long as that happens prior to mid-July we will be able to have any reductions reflected in next year’s property tax bills. We’ll keep you updated as this proposal goes through the Legislature.

Xavier Botana, Superintendent

The City Council voted on May 10 to approve the $125.2 million school budget proposal for the 2021-2022 school year, after voting down a controversial amendment to reduce the budget. The equity-based FY22 school budget now goes to city voters in a referendum on
June 8. The Council's vote followed a public hearing on May 10 and also on May 3, during which the overwhelming majority of speakers supported the budget.
The Portland Board of Public Education approved the budget on April 13 and then the Board's budget went to the City Council, which approved its bottom line. The budget contains about $2.9 million in initiatives to advance equity. Board Chair Emily Figdor characterized the budget as "an absolutely critical investment to address the inequities in our school district." Learn more budget details on the Budget Development page on the district’s website. Here are a couple of news stories this week on the budget, one from Channel 13 and another from the Portland Press Herald.
The Portland Board of Public Education voted on May 18 to adjust school start and end times for the 2021-2022 school year, starting this fall. The adjustments build off the schedule changes made this year during the COVID-19 pandemic and move the district closer to its goal of having later start times for its secondary school students. 
The Board also voted to adopt a resolution committing it to make secondary school start times consistent with scientific adolescent sleep knowledge for the 2022-23 school year. Extensive research shows that adolescent biorhythms are inconsistent with traditional school schedules. Studies show that starting school later can help adolescents get enough sleep and improve their health, academic performance, and quality of life. Learn the details here

The Portland Board of Public Education voted May 18 to approve revisions to a number of Board policies governing student discipline. The changes are part of the equity goal in the Portland Promise, the district’s strategic plan, which commits the district to reviewing and removing current policies that create barriers to having all of our students meet their full potential. Like districts all across the country, PPS school discipline data historically has shown the overrepresentation of students of color and students who are low income and students who have disabilities in discipline outcomes. Research has shown that implicit biases and culturally based norms contribute to this disparity.  Research has also shown that those disparities contribute to disparities in the outcomes between student groups. To initiate the review process, the Center for Educational Equity conducted an equity audit of PPS discipline-related policies. Based on this feedback, the policies have been revised to align with work in our schools to reduce these disparities.
“I am so proud of this overhaul to our discipline policies that shifts us from a punitive approach to one that reflects our values as a district and is rooted in high expectations for all, valuing courage and creativity, and community,” said Board Chair Emily Figdor. “The work to update our discipline policies started three years ago with our Family Partnership Committee and then an audit by the Center for Educational Equity. A huge shout out to all who worked over years to fundamentally change our approach to discipline.”

The revisions are grounded in the Portland Public Schools’ values of high expectations, creativity, individuality, community and courage.  Among the most salient changes are making clear that school exclusions including suspension and expulsion are interventions of last resort; requiring that any suspension of more than five days be approved by the Superintendent; adding listings of tiered interventions and supports beyond punishment; ensuring that communication about disciplinary issues happens consistently by adding translation and interpretation for students and families; providing for consideration of the possible role of bias in the disciplinary process; and requiring annual public reporting of disciplinary outcomes to the Board. The revisions also include some minor edits and updated definitions. A summary of the revisions to eight disciplinary policies can be found here.


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 May 21st update

Maine DOE Hosts COVID-19 Vaccine Information Sessions with Maine Physicians, Infectious Disease Experts

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) has been hosting information sessions with Maine physicians who are experts on COVID-19 vaccines and infectious diseases to help educate school populations about the COVID-19 vaccines available to school aged youth.

The previous two COVID-19 Vaccine Information sessions are available at:

With school districts across Maine now in the midst of scheduling and hosting COVID-19 clinics for students that are eligible for the vaccine, the above information sessions can be helpful in answering questions that school staff and communities may have about the health and safety of students taking the vaccine.



The Foundation for Portland Public Schools on May 19 announced that rising junior Didon Maombi Heri is the latest Portland High School student chosen to receive the Step Up Award, now in its 4th year. Learn more about the award and about Didon here

Superintendent Xavier Botana is devoting his monthly column in The Forecaster this school year to writing about outstanding Portland Public Schools staff. Previously, he's written about a nurse, a Central Office curriculum leader, a bus driver, a custodian, a parent community specialist, an ed-tech and an assistant principal. May's column focused on EL teacher Rohan Henry. Learn more about this exemplary educator here.
You can also read about Rohan and the other staff in the superintendent's blog here.

Portland Public Schools students are among the young people featured in "Teens who got vaccines," a great photo essay in the Portland Press Herald. Thank you to our high school nurses for all their work to encourage students to get vaccinated and for getting the word out to students about participating in this project. Check it out here.

Christiana Rae “Anna” Gannon, a Portland High School senior enrolled in the PATHS carpentry program, has been named one of Maine’s 2020/2021 Career and Technical Education (CTE) Students of the Year. Learn more here!
Graduation Update

Portland, Deering and Casco Bay high school will hold in-person commencement ceremonies on June 2 and 3 for the approximately 500 graduating seniors in the Class of 2021. However, now that the capacity limits at Merrill Auditorium have been increased, Portland High School has moved its graduation ceremony to that indoor venue. Deering and Casco Bay high schools’ plans remain unchanged. The graduation ceremony schedule is as follows:
  • 147th  Deering High School Graduation: Wednesday, June 2, 11 a.m., Memorial Field (Rain date, Friday, June 4, 11 a.m., Memorial Field)
  • 200th Portland High School Graduation: Thursday, June 3, 11 a.m., Merrill Auditorium
  • 13th Casco Bay High School Graduation: Thursday, June 3, 6 p.m., Merrill Auditorium
In addition, Portland Adult Education (PAE) will hold its graduation ceremony on June 24 at 6 p.m. at Merrill Auditorium for PAE graduates who have attained a high school diploma or passed the HiSET test (formerly GED). Learn more about PPS graduations this year here.
The City of Portland is holding a special municipal election on Tuesday, June 8 for Portland voters to vote on our equity-based FY22 school budget and on City Charter commissioners. Get voting information here. Learn details of the school budget here. We encourage members of our Portland Public Schools community to vote!
Study: Immigrant Peers Provide Academic Boost to Native-born Students
A recent article in “The 74,” a nonprofit news website focusing on education issues, highlights the benefit of diverse schools, as shown in new research. The article, titled “'A Rising Tide That Lifts All Boats’: Having More Immigrant Peers Can Boost Scores For U.S.-Born Students, New Study Finds," links the presence of immigrant classmates with gains in academic performance for students born in the U.S., especially for Black and low-income youth. Read more here.

The Federal Communications Commission has launched a temporary program to help families and households struggling to afford Internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. 

Eligible households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) using an online or mail in application.

You can learn more here, or by calling 833-511-0311   

PPS Outdoor Learning Featured in Archinect

Our district’s outstanding outdoor learning program has gotten another shout-out, this time in Archinect, a publication whose mission is to make architecture more connected and open-minded. The article is titled “Schools Turn to Architects as the Pandemic Mandates Collaboration With Long-Term Impacts.”
Read more here.
Lyseth Spanish Teacher Is Focus of Portland Phoenix Article

The Portland Phoenix wrote about Lyseth Elementary School's award-winning Spanish Immersion Program and an award-winning teacher in the program, José Ivan Sabau Torrelo, in an article titled “Spanish ministry appreciates the work of Portland teacher.”  Read the article here.
The Portland Public Schools is excited to be offering the Teach Portland program this summer! Teach Portland is a summer program that seeks to build interest in the teaching profession and increase the diversity of teachers in Maine. Teach Portland provides an opportunity for participants to experience teaching firsthand in one of our summer learning classrooms, to receive a stipend for participating in the program, and to access optional professional development activities. Read more and access the application here.
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