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December 18, 2020 Staff & Community Newsletter

Dear Portland Public Schools families and students, 
 
I’m writing to let you know that for Monday, December 21, and Tuesday, December 22, our middle and high schools will operate in full remote learning. Our elementary schools will continue with our in-person hybrid model. Portland Adult Education will continue with its regular remote learning.
 
There are several reasons for this. First, we want to limit COVID exposure for our students, families and staff as much as possible. Also, our incredible nurses have had a heavy lift throughout the fall, and this will help limit additional contact tracing that could prevent their taking a needed break. Lastly, our designation today by the Maine Department of Education as “yellow,” as well as our experience of the past month, shows that we have increased risk of community spread. We now have 45 active cases, mostly impacting our secondary schools. 
 
We have worked hard over the past two days to ensure that we are ready to be fully remote at the secondary level. Our middle and high school students, who each have their own devices, will follow the remote learning plans that we have finalized. Schools will follow up with specific information. 
 
We are close but not quite ready to be fully remote at the elementary level. High demand globally means that delivery of technology devices has been slow and our elementary students do not yet all have one-to-one devices. These two days will be an opportunity for students to receive their remote learning packets and be trained how to use iPads that will be distributed in the new year to students in grades Pre-K through 2. 
 
For secondary students, meals will be available on Monday and Tuesday of next week from 1-2 p.m. at our four distribution sites: Deering, Portland and Casco Bay high schools, and Talbot Community School. On Tuesday, Dec. 22, all students can pick up a  three-day bag of food to help get them through the winter break.
 
To date, almost all of our cases have come from contacts outside of school, not from spread within our schools. To keep schools safe, I ask that you  please practice health and safety protocols (mask wearing, social distancing, handwashing and monitoring for symptoms) in the community, particularly over the next two weeks. 
 
Winter break begins on Wednesday, Dec. 23. We currently plan to return to our hybrid model when students return January 4. If that changes over the winter break, we will let you know promptly. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this challenging year.
 
Sincerely, 

 

Xavier Botana, Superintendent
NOTICES
PPS Weekly COVID Update
To keep everyone in the Portland Public Schools community informed, the district is putting out an update each Friday with the number of positive cases in our schools each week and any building closures. Learn more.
Travel Guidance
The district is moving to stricter travel guidelines beginning Jan 1, 2021. Staff and students who travel outside of Maine except to Vermont and New Hampshire must quarantine and schedule a COVID-19 test three days after their return to Maine.
Students must quarantine before their test and while waiting for results. If testing is not done, students must quarantine 10 days before returning to school. Testing sites can be found here:  https://get-tested-covid19.org OR https://covidtestforme.com.
 
If you need to report a positive case to school, please send an email to covid19@portlandschools.org. Someone will contact you within 72 hours.
 
The virus won’t be taking a holiday. We know a major source of transmission continues to be small indoor gatherings of family and friends. Do not let your “safety” guard down if visiting with people from outside of your household. 
On Tuesday, December 22nd, the PPS Food Service will be handing out 3-day bags of school meals in lieu of the holiday meal pick-ups. They will be available to students at Casco Bay, Deering, Portland High, or Talbot from 1-2 pm. We are urging all staff to share this information with students and their families to ensure no one goes hungry this holiday! The PPS Food Service team would like to thank you in advance for all of your help and cooperation! Regular meal service will resume Monday, Jan. 4.
iPAD Distribution
iPads have arrived in the district. Last Thursday we received a shipment of 1,800 for PreK-Grade 2 students. We are still waiting on cases for the iPads, which are expected to ship this week. We are processing these devices as soon as possible and will be coordinating with the principals regarding estimated delivery times to the schools. Chromebooks – thanks to Google, we've been able to secure 1,600 Chromebooks which we expect to arrive around December 30th. We are still waiting on the shipment of the remaining 2,950. Chromebooks will be distributed to Grades 3-12.
End to Funding of Community Partner Program
The Portland Public Schools has been very happy to offer families full- or partial-day child care and enrichment programs this fall and working families have depended on it.
 
Through the federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) the district was able to provide programming to pay 13 amazing community partners for this vital service. Unfortunately, that CRF money runs out on Dec. 30. 
The district used about two-thirds of the $10.5 million CRF for urgent one-time COVID-related investments, such as supplies, computers so students could learn remotely and upgrades to facilities to make them safer for students and staff. About one-third of that money was used to fund additional staffing and services, such as in-school substitutes, staffing for our Remote Academy, ELL and special education teachers, as well as the community partner programming. 
 
Continuing to provide these services has cost implications for the district’s budget. Superintendent Xavier Botana made a recommendation to the Portland Board of Public Education to prioritize continuation of the in-school programming additions. The Board held a workshop about this on Dec. 8 and will now vote at its Tuesday, Dec. 22, meeting at 6 p.m. If his recommendation is approved, the district will not be able to continue to fund the community enrichment programming that has provided safe and engaging programming for students during the days they were not scheduled for in-person school. 
 
Portland Public Schools is still trying to figure out how to support some continuation of this programming in conjunction with its 13 partners. At this time support for the children of Portland Public Schools’ staff who are currently served in these programs is a priority. The district is also working with the City of Portland Recreation program to continue their before- and after-care programming for students on the days when they are in school in person. If additional federal funds are allocated for schools in the near future the district will make every effort to reinstate these services.

Information on the Board’s Dec. 22 meeting can be found on our BoardDocs page.
Learning Expectations for Students
Who Are Absent 
During the COVID-19 pandemic, more students are out of school due to having to quarantine or because they’re showing symptoms or because parents choose not to send them to school out of  concern for students’ health and safety. During this challenging time, we want families and students to understand our expectations for absent students.
Districtwide Expectations: Students who are absent, yet well enough to do schoolwork, will continue to engage in their remote day work according to their hybrid schedule. Students will have access to their Seesaw or Google Classroom platforms, in addition to other materials and tech platforms or programs their teachers have provided. Teachers are not able to replicate in-person days for these students or create individualized plans for them. Teachers will work to help absent students bridge any learning gaps they are experiencing and may use time on Wednesdays or – if the students are in high school – through school Learning Centers to do that. Any absent student also has the opportunity to make up missed work at a later date.
Greater Portland Metro Update
Effective on Monday, Dec. 14, Greater Portland Metro made some operational changes due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Cumberland County and around the state. The changes include: 
  • Reducing bus passenger capacity from 30 back down to 20 to allow for greater spacing between passengers. Metro plans to reallocate staffing to support increased runs to compensate for the lower capacity on each bus.
  • As part of CDC guidance for public transit systems and workplaces, Metro continues to implement the following safety protocols and is adding additional measures. Those include: on-board bus operator partitions; a requirement that all passengers wear masks or a compliant face shield; a requirement that all Metro staff wear masks on property (except in personal offices) and on board buses; room capacity restrictions and requirements to maintain at least 6 feet of distance; daily staff health/temperature checks; internal contact tracing and quarantining from work when there are positive cases; and daily enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of buses and work spaces.
To learn about the DiriGo TouchPass Mobile App, which became available to students this fall, go this link
FOR STUDENTS
Message to PPS Students
(Please share with your child)
Due to social distancing and remote learning, COVID-19 has left many students feeling isolated and disconnected. The upcoming break from school may only increase these feelings for some. Because we want you to take good care of yourselves and your friends during the break, we wanted to share both 1) some of the signs that it may be time to ask for help for yourself or others, and 2) some resources available to you even in times when your teachers and school support staff are largely unavailable. READ MORE.
FOR PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS
Exploring Career and Technical Education

Monday, December 21, 2020   
5:30-7:00 p.m.
Event Flyer: Acholi, Arabic, English, French, Khmer, Portuguese, Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese
Interpreters will be available at the event!

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Passcode: 335502

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Webinar ID: 996 9001 5701


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