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STAFF & COMMUNITY NEWSLETTER
Sept. 2, 2021
 
Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
 
We’re back! We successfully launched the 2021-2022 school year with full-time, in-person learning this week. Our staff are genuinely thrilled to have students back in school and most students I spoke to felt the same way.  It was awesome to see our schools buzzing with student and staff activity for the first time in a long time.
 
The challenge now for all of us – staff, students and families – is to keep it that way. We can do that by using everything in our collective toolbox to help keep everyone safe and healthy during this pandemic. Vaccines, masking, and pooled testing are our top tools for keeping our students learning in our classrooms. As you know, we’re requiring universal masking indoors and on buses. Other measures include daily symptom checks, physical distancing during mealtimes, frequent handwashing, enhanced cleaning, keeping windows open, and having everyone spend as much time outdoors as possible.
 
In a few weeks, our students in kindergarten through grade 6 – grades in which students are not yet eligible to be vaccinated – will be taking part in pooled testing, with their parents’ permission. Students and staff in a classroom will take a fast, easy COVID-19 test once a week. Students participating in pooled testing will not need to quarantine from school if they are considered close contacts of a positive case, as long as they do not have symptoms. Pooled testing is free for participants – the cost is covered by the state. It is one way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and can greatly reduce the number of days a student will need to be out of school in quarantine.
 
I hope you were able to attend our Sept. 1 virtual Parent University public forum on pooled testing to get your questions answered. If not, view the session on YouTube HERE. Please also visit the pooled testing page on our website, where you can find more information and find forms to register your child either online with a Google Form or by downloading a paper form to fill out and submit to your child’s school. I encourage all our families to register their children for pooled testing. The more students who participate, the safer we can keep our schools.
 
Vaccines are one of our most important safety measures. The news is positive regarding our students. Between 85 percent to 90 percent of eligible students in our Portland zip codes are vaccinated, according to state data. We’ll continue to work to improve those numbers, promoting vaccination and scheduling clinics at our secondary schools on a regular basis.
 
Early indications are that our staff vaccination rate also is high, but we are collecting more specific staff vaccination data for next Tuesday's Board of Public Education meeting.  We’ll also be reporting that data to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services as required.


In the meantime, I’ll continue to beg everyone eligible to get a vaccine if you haven’t already and to please encourage anyone else you know to join you.
 
We’re resuming our practice of weekly reporting of any cumulative COVID cases and will follow all of the required standard operating procedures for reporting cases to school communities.
 
I know that when we ended the last school year in June, things looked much better than they do today. Having to begin the new school year with COVID mitigation measures still in place feels like a little bit of a step back. But we have had a year of experience on how to run school safely with these protocols in place, so we know they work. Then, as now, the key to success is everyone doing their part to comply. We did that last year and I’m confident we can do it again this year if we all work together.
 
Sincerely, 


Xavier Botana, Superintendent
BOARD NEWS
RENOVATIONS UPDATE

If you missed the Aug. 26 Building Level Advisory Committee (BLAC) meetings on renovations now ongoing at three of our elementary schools, catch up by using the links below.
LONGFELLOW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MEETING
PRESUMPSCOT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MEETING
REICHE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MEETING


Three School Board Seats Up for Election Nov. 2
Three Portland Board of Public Education incumbents are running for re-election to their seats this November. Only one at-large seat is being contested. Both District 1 Board representative Abusana “Micky” Bondo and District 2 Board representative and current Board Chair Emily Figdor are unopposed as each seeks a second term on the Board. At-large Board member Sarah Thompson, who is running for a sixth term, faces one challenger for the seat: Nyalat Biliew, who made an unsuccessful bid for an at-large seat last November. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2. For more information on the November municipal election, click HERE.
HEALTH AND SAFETY UPDATES
FALL '21 REOPENING INFORMATION

Please see this Reopening Website for the most up-to-date information regarding school reopening in the fall, including pooled testing, universal masking indoors, and continued increased sanitation measures.  
Daily Symptom Check

This school year, just like last year, families will be expected to check their students every morning for symptoms of COVID -19 or other illness. Keep your child home if your child is sick or has any symptoms. Call the school nurse if you are unsure if your student should come to school. Here is the daily symptom check in a variety of languages.
POOLED TESTING INFORMATION
AND CONSENT FORM
In a few weeks, Portland Public Schools students in kindergarten through grade 6 – the grades in which students are not yet eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19 – will be taking part in pooled testing, with their parents’ permission.

Students and staff in a classroom will take a fast, easy COVID-19 test once a week. Students participating in pooled testing will not need to quarantine from school if they are considered close contacts of a positive case, as long as they do not have symptoms. Pooled testing is free to students and staff participating – the cost is covered by the state. It is one way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and can greatly reduce the number of days a student will need to be out of school in quarantine.

If you missed our Sept. 1 virtual Parent University public forum on pooled testing, watch it on YouTube HERE to get many of your questions answered. 

Please also visit the pooled testing page on our website, where you can find more information and register your child online with a Google Form or download a paper form to fill out and submit to your child’s school. 
IMMUNIZATION REMINDER ON NON-COVID-RELATED IMMUNIZATIONS REQUIRED TO ATTEND SCHOOL
Reminder to families: As of Sept. 1, 2021, a new state law, LD 798, went into effect. The law, approved in 2019, states that philosophical or religious immunization exemptions are no longer allowed for school attendance. If you are unsure of your student’s vaccination status, please contact your school nurse. It can take 6 months to catch up on required vaccinations. Details of the new law can be found here: LD798.
NOTICES
Information about replenishing your student's PayPAMS meal account

Did you receive the following message about your student’s PayPAMS meal account: “Reminder to replenish your student's meal account”? 

Did you have a PayPAMS account prior to the pandemic? 

Some families may have received this message, and been confused. Here's an explanation:

Yes, school breakfast and lunch are FREE for all students this year.
However, for families who want to participate in the lunch program by purchasing milk only, or for high school students who will want to purchase a la carte items, we need to have the PayPAMS program operating.
Please check and update your account settings if necessary, and turn off any automatic refills or reminders if you don’t want them. We hope to see your students in the lunch line!
METRO Route 9 Service Adjusted

Great Portland METRO has adjusted its Route 9A & 9B schedules to better serve Portland Public Schools students. Route 9A travels in a clockwise direction from downtown Portland to North Deering. Route 9B travels in a counterclockwise direction along the same route. Learn more & view/download the new schedules.
PLEASE COMPLETE THE SCHOOL MEAL APPLICATION (CLICK THE POSTCARD FOR THE LINK)

Musical Instrument “Clean Out Your Attic”

The Portland Public Schools Music Department is having a "clean out your attic/closet" morning on Saturday Sept. 25 at Lincoln Middle School, from 9 a.m. until noon.
This event is an opportunity for families who still might have a musical instrument belonging to PPS that they borrowed during the pandemic to drop these instruments off. It’s also an opportunity for others in the community who have an instrument they want to donate to PPS to bring those instruments to the event that morning. For more information, contact Audrey Cabral, PPS Band Director/Music Coordinator, at cabraa@portlandschools.org
PARENT UNIVERSITY
Orientation for Families New to PPS
If you are a family new to the Portland Public Schools and missed the Aug. 26 Parent University session titled, "Orientation for Families New to PPS," catch up by viewing it on YouTube! 
BACK TO SCHOOL FAIR
RESCHEDULED FROM SEPT 11th TO SEPT 18th
Join us for an afternoon of important activities! 
  1. Activate your online parent login & complete important school forms to access free & reduced lunch, & more.
  2. Learn about health & safety protocols at your schools.
  3. Access community resources & information about the Child Tax Credit, EBT Cards, & more.
*Saturday, September 18, 2021
9:00 AM-1:00 PM
East End Community School
195 North St. Portland, ME

*Rain Date:
Saturday, September 25, 2021
1:00-4:00 PM
 
We will be outside.
Please wear your mask.
Acholi, Arabic, French, Portuguese, Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese
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