April 30, 2021

Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
We were fortunate to welcome students in grades PK-8 for four days of in-person instruction this past week.  It was great to “see” students smile through their masks as they were reunited with classmates from the “other” cohort. We are so grateful for our community and staff’s patience and perseverance in this long and challenging year.
This pandemic constantly requires us to continue vigilance and learning. We stand ready to adapt our plans as needed in order to keep our students and staff safe.  These coming six weeks will be important learning opportunities as we look ahead to the 2021-2022 school year.
For now, please remember that families, students and staff continue to have a critical role in keeping our schools safe. As you probably already know, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this week relaxed its guidance on masks outdoors for those who are fully vaccinated. However, that will not change the state’s six health and safety mandates for safe in-person learning at school. Here at the Portland Public Schools, we will continue to require individuals to wear masks when on school grounds. Read our latest Health and Safety Update, which includes information regarding masks at school and when playing sports, and on physical distancing, travel guidelines, vaccines and testing.
Cumberland County remains “green” in the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) color-coded county rating system. However, four counties – a quarter of the state’s 16 counties total – were designated “yellow” on April 23 and two other “green” counties are being closely monitored because of increases in cases and positivity rates. County lines mean nothing to this virus, so we must do everything we can to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in our own community.
We need to continue to follow our health and safety protocols at school and in the community.  In addition to continuing to wear masks and observe physical distancing, please don’t send your student to school if they or anyone in the family has any symptoms – even if you think they might just be spring allergy symptoms! Contact our amazing nursing team, who can help arrange for testing.
The best way for all of us to return to more normal schooling and life is for everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated. Vaccinations are now much easier to get. For example, Northern Light Health is holding walk-in clinics at the Portland Expo, located 239 Park Avenue  on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pfizer vaccines are currently available at these sites for anyone 16 years of age and older. You can also make an appointment at: Also, MaineHealth is offering walk-in vaccinations at its Scarborough Downs clinic on Monday and Tuesday, May 3 and 4, for those 18 and older. 16- and 17-year-olds can schedule vaccine appointments at
We have just over six weeks before this school year officially ends. To make up for the two snow days we had before we implemented remote days for inclement weather, the last day of school is now scheduled for June 15 for students (and June 16 for teachers). Let’s all work together to make sure that the majority of our students can be in school safely learning each school day during this time.

Xavier Botana, Superintendent
The Council's Finance Committee on April 29 voted to recommend to the full Council that the district reduce the budget by $1.5 million to achieve a neutral tax rate. That recommendation goes to the City Council as it considers the School Board's approved budget. If the Council votes to reduce our budget, the School Board will meet to make the necessary reductions. The Council is scheduled to hold a first read on the school budget on Monday, May 3, and vote on the budget on May 10. 
A Crew of 7th Grade students collaborated with students from Sweetland School in Hope, Maine, and renowned artist Robert Shetterly to investigate the following questions:

What concerns do you have for our future?
What problems do you think adults are not working hard enough on?
What does justice look like?
What does equality look like?
What does safety look like?

Students discussed what a future for “ME” and a future for “Maine” might look like. They created “I Give Voice To,” poems explaining their concerns for the future and created self portraits. Their artwork and poems will be on display in the State House at the end of May.


This link has the latest information on travel guidelines, distancing, use of masks, vaccinations, 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 April 30th update
MANA and Maine DHHS are offering free transportation services for Covid related needs such as testing, vaccine, and quarantine/isolation shelters. Please share with your networks. 

Flyers and translations: English, FrenchKinyarwandaLingala, Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili
Superintendent’s Column Shout-out to Assistant Principals

Check out Superintendent Xavier Botana's latest column in The Forecaster: "Assistant principals are positive problem-solvers.” It features amazing Lincoln Middle School AP Robyn Bailey! Read more here

Maine Celebrates National Board Certified Teachers in Virtual Ceremony

Lyseth Elementary School’s Rachel Landry, a special education teacher, has renewed her certification with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and was one of 26 Maine teachers honored in an April 8 virtual ceremony. Learn more here.
Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) Grant To Be Used for Microgardens
Brooke Teller, the district’s Outdoor Learning and STEM Coordinator, recently received the following notice, “Congratulations! You have been approved for funding in the MAITC COVID Emergency Scholarship program!" Brooke said the $1,000 grant will be used for 10 microgardens – basically a large container garden for each elementary school to plant with their students for a hands-on learning opportunity.
DHS, Lincoln, Moore Students Win PFP Grants

Painting for a Purpose (PFP) is a group of artists who paint whimsical wooden items – such as lobsters, birds and fish. They sell these items to raise money for a philanthropy fund for service learning projects led by Portland Public Schools students who want to make a difference. Students receive up to $500 to put their idea into action. Read about 2021 PFP grants that were awarded to students at Lincoln and Moore middle schools and Deering High School and learn how students can apply for a grant here.
PowerED Up Podcast with Cindy Soule

Cindy Soule, the 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year and a fourth-grade teacher at Talbot Community School dives deep in this podcast into her strategies for inquiry-based learning and how they can impact a student's ability to learn to read. See more here!
DHS, PHS Students Shine at JMG Career Conference
Students at Deering and Portland high schools distinguished themselves at JMG’s virtual Career Development Conference, April 13-16. Deering took first place in the Team Decision Making competition, and DHS junior Emmanuel Saili placed first in the Public Speaking competition. The Portland team won third place in the Career Association Presentation, and other students from both teams won individual awards. Read more here!
PHS, LMS Teams Are USM CubeSat Finalists!
Student teams from Portland High School and Lincoln Middle School are finalists in the University of Southern Maine’s first CubeSat Design Competition. Each team designed a CubeSat, which is a type of miniature satellite used for space research. Earning finalist status means that the teams can now begin building their CubeSats, which will be launched in mid to late June. Read more here!

The district had two snow days this year before we were able to implement all-remote days for inclement weather. To make up for those two days, the last day of school is now scheduled for June 15 for students and June 16 for teachers.
ON MAY 4! 

Ellen Handelman, Lyseth K-5 art teacher, has started a DonorsChoose page in order to build a better outdoor learning environment for students.
To celebrate teachers like Handelman, DonorsChoose will be providing a 50 percent match for donations to educators' projects on Tuesday, May 4, which is Teacher Appreciation Day. Read more and make a donation to Ms. Handelman's project here!  Many of our other teachers have projects too. To find out about donating to other PPS staff projects, go to: and type in Portland, ME to view the great projects you can support!
Between preparing healthy meals for America’s students, adhering to strict nutrition standards, navigating student food allergies, and offering service with a smile, school nutrition professionals are true heroes! School Lunch Hero Day, Friday, May 7, provides you with the perfect opportunity to recognize the hardworking professionals in your school cafeterias. Learn more here
Reiche Student Reads 250 Books Since Start of Pandemic

A fourth-grade avid reader who attends Reiche Community School is featured in this April 14th Maine Sunday Telegram story: 'Mainers challenge themselves to reading goals during the pandemic.' Check it out! 
Outdoor Learning in the Spotlight

An April 21st WMTW-TV Channel 8 story focuses on the district’s plan to continue and expand its nationally recognized outdoor learning initiative into the future. Check it out here - 'Portland schools look to build on success of outdoor learning'
PPS, in partnership with Wayside Food Programs, is providing supplemental food boxes and items to families experiencing food insecurity. The program started at the height of the pandemic last March, 2020 and will continue through this summer:
June 16th - August 18th on Wednesdays from 1:00 - 3:00 PM.
Volunteers come to Wayside Food Programs during those hours for pick up and deliver to 5-10 families on an established weekly route in the greater Portland area. Please consider this volunteer opportunity with PPS and Wayside. Find the Volunteer Application here.
Thinking about Education Starting
at Birth

Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Starting at Zero is a film that explores the power of investing in high-quality early childhood education so that all children and families have the opportunity to thrive and attain the American Dream. What’s the status of early childhood education in Portland and in Maine? Why is birth-to-5 education critical in the development of children? How can families bring their voice in developing quality early childhood education programs?

A panel of experts and practitioners will discuss these questions and other questions from the audience. Please see the instructions below to access the film:
  • Click HERE to be taken to a brief Mailchimp form that you must complete and submit.
  • This will lead to a page on the website. 
    • There, enter the password that is provided after completing the form.
  • The page will load with the video player and instructions for an optimal viewing experience.
  • We have been told that by the time of our screening the narrative will be subtitled in Spanish, Portuguese, and French languages
Please click the link below to join the webinar:

Event flyer: AcholiArabic, English, French, PortugueseSomali, Spanish, Vietnamese
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