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November 2020 Staff & Community Newsletter

Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
 
As I’m sure you’re aware, the number of COVID-19 cases is rapidly rising around the nation and here in Maine. Our State set new daily records this past week, leading our governor to mandate that everyone wear masks in public, regardless of how far away you are from others. Our State’s overall infection rate still is relatively low, but this trend is moving in the wrong direction.
 
This community spread of COVID is now impacting our schools. After a few weeks of no in-district cases, we are seeing our first ones. In the past two weeks, we’ve had nine positive cases: one each at Rowe Elementary School, King Middle School, Moore Middle School, East End Community School, Lincoln Middle School, Deering High School and Lyseth Elementary School and two cases at Portland High School. The positive individuals at Rowe and King weren’t at school during their infectious period, but the other cases have involved a significant number of staff and student close contacts having to quarantine. We inform families and staff about any cases at their schools as soon as we learn about them and close contacts are contacted by the Maine CDC and/or school nurses. To keep everyone informed, we also now will be sending a weekly report card on cases in our schools district-wide to keep everyone informed. 
 
Our hopes and prayers are for the quick recovery of the individuals affected. Students and staff in quarantine are still learning or working remotely unless they’re sick. Quarantine, which lasts 14 days, can require a great deal of support, for such needs as grocery shopping. For anyone who has COVID-19 or is in quarantine and in need of support, here is a state link to help to find resources..
 
For the rest of us, it’s important that everyone wear masks, wash hands and maintain social distancing. We need to follow those practices not just in school but also in our community as we come into contact with others. That’s the best way to prevent the community spread that is leading to these positive cases in our schools and threatens our ability to offer in-person school.
 
The Maine Department of Education’s color-coded system (green, yellow and red) gives guidance on whether it’s safe to hold in-person schooling in a particular county. Under the state’s system, Cumberland County has stayed green, but we are preparing for the possibility that our county’s status changes as the virus increases in our area. 
 
If Cumberland County moves to yellow, we would evaluate our ability to continue to offer in-person instruction rather than automatically go to fully remote instruction. We would make data-driven decisions about our ability to have students continue coming to school. We are taking this approach because research on the impact of previous school closures and our real-world experience this fall tell us that in-person instruction is superior to remote learning for many of our students. 
 
However, please remember that whatever our county’s rating color is, the facts on the ground in our district will determine how we respond. For example, it’s possible that if too many staff members have to quarantine due to new cases, we may have to temporarily go to remote learning until we have sufficient staff  to run our schools.
 
I also want families to know that we will be changing our current “symptom check” screening starting Monday, Nov. 9. We will still send a “School Messenger”  email reminder to families each day, asking them to screen their  students for symptoms of Covid-19 before sending them to school. However, we won’t be asking families to verify they completed the symptom check because – rather than use valuable time in school for our nurses and staff to check on who has and who hasn’t signed off on the check – we hope to free them up to track and monitor cases of illness and help us to continue in-person learning.
 
We will still rely on our families – our valued partners – to follow the screening protocols, keep sick students home and call nurses with questions and inform schools about COVID contacts and quarantines your family is experiencing. Please, let’s all do our part to ensure that everyone – our students, staff, families and fellow community members – stays safe and healthy.
 

Sincerely,

Xavier Botana, Superintendent
SCHOOL BOARD NEWS
Three Newcomers Elected to
School Board
Portland voters elected three new Portland Board of Public Education members on Nov. 3. Yusuf Yusuf won an at-large seat; Aura Russell-Bedder was elected to the District 4 seat; and Jeffrey Irish won the District 5 seat, according to results from the Portland City Clerk's office. Get more details.
School Board Revises Policy on Harassment
The Portland Board of Public Education on Oct. 20 approved extensive changes to its existing policy protecting students from harassment and discrimination. The changes include more explicit definitions of terms, the implementation of safe reporting procedures and affirmation of the district’s goal to create “a climate of respect, inclusion, and equity for all.”  Read more.
REMINDERS

Cautionary Travel Alert

With Thanksgiving approaching, please be aware of the current state mandate that if you travel outside of the state to anywhere except Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, you must either quarantine for 14 days upon return to Maine OR get a (negative) COVID-19 test. You must quarantine while waiting results of your COVID test. You can be tested in the state you are visiting if it is within 72 hours of your return to Maine. Students cannot return to school until they present a negative test or quarantine for 14 days after traveling outside of Maine to non-exempt states. Testing sites may be busy around Thanksgiving, so you will want to plan accordingly.
Shade Structure Safety
Shade structures are being installed at all of our schools to support outdoor learning. These canopies were a considerable investment and we need to do all we can to keep them in good condition. That means it is very important that students do not climb on them! It can be dangerous because the shade structures are not meant to hold the weight of a person. Also, the dirt from shoes will wear away the fabric. We want everyone to have the chance to use these structures  – and to stay safe.  Please help us convey that message to your children!
A Message from the Portland Public Schools Food Service to Families
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has made school meals free for all students this school year, due to the pandemic. So, whether your student is attending in-person school or is in the Remote Academy, encourage them to enjoy our free school breakfasts and lunches! However, even though the meals are free this year, we could really use your help – by filling out your Free and Reduced Meal Application or Income Survey forms! Filling out these forms will help PPS qualify for grants and programs that can benefit your student and other students. Learn more about our food program.
Digital Life

We want to remind families that when your children are using their district-issued computers at home, they don’t have the same content filtering that they have when using their devices on our school networks. That means that parents need to monitor their children’s access to the internet at home to manage their use and make sure they’re not viewing inappropriate content. Monitoring your children’s internet use is also an opportunity to teach them about becoming good digital citizens. A good digital citizen is someone that uses their digital tools safely and responsibly.

Figuring out what kind of parental control is best is based on factors such as your child’s age and your own family's needs. This helpful resource from Common Sense Media presents a wide array of parental control solutions. Common Sense Media is like a Consumer Reports for our digital world. If parents are wondering anything about a new app or video game, this is the go-to website to give unbiased feedback to help you make your own parenting decisions. Check it out to help you decide what’s best for your family’s digital life.
What Sets PPS Apart?

Collecting, understanding and responding to the feedback of our community is critical when it comes to delivering The Portland Promise: Achievement, Equity, Whole Student and People. It is in this spirit that we invite your impressions around 'What sets PPS apart' (English)? Please take a few minutes to share your voice and perspective. Thank you! Translations: Acholi, Arabic, French, Khmer, Portuguese, Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese
 

Flu Shot Schedule

PPS will continue to offer flu clinics in the fall for students and staff. Here's the schedule.
Opt in to Get School Messages by Text!
The Portland Public Schools uses the SchoolMessenger system (SMS) to deliver important information about events, school closings, safety alerts and more via phone calls and emails. It also can send text messages straight to your mobile phone with that type of important information, including the Daily Symptom Check reminder. However, you must “opt in” to get text messages. 

Please click on the link to find out how you can participate in this texting service. Here's the letter in EnglishAcholiArabicFrenchPortugueseSomaliSpanish, and Vietnamese.
PPS NEWS
Ribbon Cutting For Talbot Inclusive Playground

Gerald E. Talbot Community School has a new community playground that is designed for youngsters of all abilities to enjoy. A socially distanced ribbon cutting ceremony for the Talbot Inclusive Playground was held at the school on Friday, Nov. 6. The ceremony recognized the numerous supporters who collaborated to help shape the vision for this newest renovation to the city of Portland’s playspaces and to raise resources for its construction.

Since 2018, community members, families, staff, student advocacy groups, civic leaders and local businesses have worked together to renovate the community playground at the school to create an ability/mobility inclusive and fun space that youngsters of all ages can enjoy. Check out this news video clip from WGME.

LMS Wabanaki Studies Lesson
Seventh-grade students at Lincoln Middle School are engaged in a Wabanaki Studies unit. With all the complications of COVID making it harder for students to have hands-on experiences in the classroom, social studies teachers Julie Shepherd and Roland Houghton decided to take students out of the classroom for some self-paced learning. The seventh-graders recently took part in a Wabanaki studies gallery walk set up in the hallways of their house classroom areas. Students kept masked and socially distant as they moved through a self-paced examination of the connections between the Wabanaki homeland, life ways and sovereignty across time.
Students expressed that they loved being able to choose what kinds of resources to learn from, how long to spend with any given resource and to get out of their classroom for a bit. They also expressed that it felt more like "normal school." 
PHS Mentoring Alliance Students Participate in Visual Pilot Program 
10 Portland High School students that were involved with the high school’s mentoring program got to participate this summer in a month-long virtual photography workshop at Maine Media in Rockport. The work of the talented students inspired Maine Media to expand the program and to fundraise to support the Young Artist Scholarship Program. Learn more.
PHS Internships Go Virtual
While the coronavirus pandemic caused many of Portland High School’s regular partners to be unable to offer internships, some organizations got creative in offering safe virtual internship opportunities for PHS students. Learn how Maine Audubon is partnering with the Portland Press Herald to provide a photography internship for one student. Read more.
Rotary Clubs Donate 2,000 Masks
to PPS Students/Families
Rotary Clubs donated a total of 2,000 masks on Oct. 6 to Portland Public Schools students and families for COVID-19 protection. The Portland Rotary Club donated 1,500 of the masks and the Sebago Lake Rotary Club donated 500 masks specifically to the district’s BREATHE Clinical & Behavioral Supports Program. The donations were part of Rotary’s Million Mask Challenge Tour. Learn more.
STAFF & STUDENT RECOGNITIONS
PPS Educator Maine 2021
Teacher of Year!
Cindy Soule, a fourth-grade teacher at the Gerald E. Talbot Community School and the 2020 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, was selected as the Maine 2021 Teacher of the Year in early October. The Portland Public Schools is very proud of Cindy! Learn more about what makes her an exemplary educator.
Teachers Win Nellie Mae Grants

Portland High School teachers Rosa Slack and Apollo Munyaneza as well as Deering High School school counselor Farausi Cherry have won Educators for Black Lives Nellie Mae Education Foundation grants. 
Rosa and Apollo's project focuses on supporting enrichment opportunities for students of color, and Farausi's on building connections between the Black Student Union at Deering and Lyman Moore Middle School to help eighth graders be increasingly ready for student leadership and activism as they enter high school. Congratulations to these staff members! PPS is thankful for their dedication and service.
CBHS Senior Hosted EL Education
Virtual Summit
Margarida Celestino, a senior at Casco Bay High School, was selected as student host of an Oct. 22-23 EL Education 2020 Virtual Summit titled “What Matters Most: Moving Toward More Equitable Schools.” During the two-day event, Margarida shared her personal reflections on immigrating with her family from Angola, West Africa, life and learning during the pandemic, and conversations about race at her school. Read some of her reflections in a posting by EL Education titled “Sneak Peek: Meet the Student Host Who Steals the Show.”
FPPS Awards More Than $48k to PPS Teachers

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools (FPPS) has completed its twelfth annual fall teacher grants program cycle. Sixty-one teachers have been awarded grants totaling $48,595, impacting over 8,000 students at all grade levels in 16 schools across the district.
 
The Equity and Innovation Teachers Grants Program supports PPS teachers in their efforts to enrich education, innovate in the classroom, and engage the community.  FPPS grant programming recognizes and supports teachers’ work to inspire students and improve learning outcomes. READ MORE.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS
AND STAFF
VFW Patriotic-Themed Essay Contest
It’s time for the VFW’s annual patriotic-themed essay contest, in which high school and middle school students can compete for awards and scholarships at the local, county, state and national levels. The deadline this year has been extended to November 18. Every year the VFW post in Portland gives out the following prizes to essay winners in high school: $200 for first place; $150 for second place; and $100 for third place. Middle school students can win $100 for first place; $75 for second place and $50 for third place. Those winners compete at the Cumberland County level, with awards set at those same amounts. The first place county winner competes at the state level and the state winner competes at the national level. Learn more about the essay contest.

The theme for grades 9-12 students is: "Is this the country the founders envisioned?" The theme for grades 6-8 students is: "What is patriotism to me?" It's important that every student follows the instructions for the contest, but most importantly, students in grades 9-12 must record themselves reading their essay as a “speech.” Only high school students have to record their essay; middle school students just need to write one. Questions? Contact Jared Sawyer, VFW Post 6859 President, at jaredmsawyer@gmail.com or at 207-469-8570.
New Scholarship Announced

Voxy and the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center (IWC) are partnering together to offer a new scholarship to honor the life and legacy of Alain Jean Claude Nahimana, the co-founder of the IWC and executive director from 2017 to 2020.
The scholarship will enable an initial cohort of 50 learners to access Voxy’s language learning platform, beginning this fall. For six months, learners will enjoy unlimited access to Voxy’s general English courses and career pathway content, which serves as a hybrid English language acquisition and workforce development model. For further information on basic requirements to apply for the scholarship, go to: https://bit.ly/2H7XHe2. Interested individuals can also direct questions to IWC Director of Finance and Operations Damas Rugaba at drugaba@welcomeimmigrant.org.
FOR PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS
High School Choice 
Session for 8th Grade Families

Thursday, December 3, 2020 
6:00-8:00 p.m.

Event Flyer:

English, Acholi, Arabic, French, Khmer, Portuguese, Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese
https://zoom.us/j/95563619354?pwd=aHdZYSszMmFDRFhieXJnZHBsbXIyZz09 Passcode: 067171
Webinar ID: 955 6361 9354
Or iPhone one-tap: US: +13126266799,,95563619354# or +16465588656,,95563619354#
Or Telephone: Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 558 8656 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 9128 or +1 253 215 8782

Interpreters will be available at the event!
Volunteers Needed!
We are currently recruiting volunteers to assist in delivering perishable food boxes to PPS families in need throughout the city of Portland. The volunteer/s are being asked to pick up an assigned number of these boxes at the Wayside Soup Kitchen on Wednesdays from 12:00-2:30 p.m. and then deliver them to families' doorsteps. Please complete this form if you are interested.
PPS IN THE NEWS
Here are links to recent news about PPS in various media outlets:

"What If Schools Viewed Outdoor Learning as ‘Plan A’?" EdSurge, Oct. 5, 2020
"Lessons Lost: The Struggle In Some New England Classrooms To Talk About Race.” Maine Public radio, Oct. 2, 2020
“Portland elementary teacher named Maine Teacher of the Year.” Portland Press Herald, Oct. 8, 2020
“Outdoor learning: another option for public schools.” News Center Maine, Channel 6, “207” program, Oct. 7 & 8
"School districts face end-of-year deadline to spend CARES money.” Portland Press Herald, Oct. 19, 2020
"Portland Public Schools grateful for our school nurses.” The Forecaster, Oct. 20, 2020
“For the second consecutive year, Maine’s Teacher of the Year is a University of Southern Maine graduate.” USM Public Affairs, Oct, 8, 2020
“School in Season.” Landscape Architecture Magazine, November 2020.
“Scout wants kids to read all about themselves.” The Forecaster, Oct. 27, 2020

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