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STAFF & COMMUNITY NEWSLETTER
April 15, 2021  
 
Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
 
This weekly communication is coming on Thursday, the day before our staff, students and families begin April break, on Friday, April 16. We want to touch base with you with the latest on our Spring Reopening plans and remind everyone to please not let your guard down with health and safety protocols, even though we won’t be in school.
 
Deering and Portland high schools welcomed back their grade 10-12 students to a new two-day-per-week schedule this past Monday, April 12. Casco Bay did the same on April 5, so now the high-school phase of our plan to increase in-person learning has been launched. We’ve gotten positive feedback from families about students being happy to be back in school with their teachers and peers.  We know there have been numerous challenges to get to this point. A huge shout-out to staff, students and families for working together to make this plan a reality. 
 
Our elementary and middle schools have been working hard all week to get our schools ready for students to attend school in person four days each week, starting when we return from break, on Monday, April 26.
 
We will need everyone’s help adhering to health and safety protocols to keep our Spring Reopening on track. The Maine Department of Education’s (MDOE) color-coded county rating system is currently categorizing all counties as “green,” which means in-person learning can proceed.
 
However, MDOE noted that both new case rates and positivity rates have recently increased statewide. We remain concerned about COVID cases in our community – particularly the increase in cases among young people. In fact, we started this week with a notification from the Maine CDC putting Portland High School in outbreak status, due to recent positive cases there. The school was able to remain open, due to quarantining all close contacts and enhanced cleaning, but this is a cautionary tale. Please remember that the vast majority of PPS cases to date have originated from contacts outside of school. We can’t emphasize enough that for this increase in in-person instruction to succeed, masking and physical distancing guidelines need to be followed not just at school but elsewhere outside the home. Also, anyone with symptoms should not attend school.
 
We recently added more information to our travel guidance, so please review carefully if your break plans include traveling. We urge everyone 16 years or older to get vaccinated as soon as they can get an appointment. We’ll quarantine unvaccinated students and staff as needed with any positive cases and will continue to adapt our plans based on evidence and data. If you need to report a case to a school or have questions over the break, email covid19@portlandschools.org. A school nurse will be checking this email over vacation.
 
Thank you to everyone for your efforts to make our Spring Reopening successful and I wish everyone a safe and enjoyable April break.

Sincerely,
 

Xavier Botana, Superintendent

SPRING REOPENING SITE
HEALTH AND SAFETY UPDATES

WEEKLY
COVID ADVISORY
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, but this week's advisory has been posted on Thursday, April 15, before the April vacation. Here’s the link to the April 15th update. The next advisory will be on April 30, the end of the first week students return from the break.
SCHOOL BOARD NEWS
 SCHOOL BOARD PASSED THE FY22 BUDGET 
On April 13th, the Board voted to recommend the FY22 school budget to the Portland City Council. The Board will present the budget to the Council on April 26. Click here for more details about the budget.  Watch the meeting on YouTube.

Check out the FY22 budget calendar for a schedule of upcoming budget meetings. You can also view Budget Development materials at this link. Go to BoardDocs to view agendas and get more information. Zoom links to meetings will also be posted on this platform, as well as on our social media.
School Board Honors DHS Student for Win
at State Science Fair

At its April 13 meeting, the Portland Board of Public Education honored Linh Nguyen, a senior at Deering High School, who is the First Place Grand Award winner in the 2021 Maine State Science Fair. Linh won for her research on how carbon nanotubes could be used as an inexpensive remover of arsenic in drinking water systems. Linh also won a prestigious national 4-year-scholarship. Linh thanked her teachers for their support. Watch the ceremony on YouTube.
NOTICE
This is an ideal job for college students! Please encourage your college students who may be back home for the summer to apply. 
EMERGENCY BROADBAND BENEFIT PROGRAM FOR ELIGIBLE HOUSEHOLDS 

A new $3.2 billion federal initiative, called the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, can help lower the cost of high-speed internet for eligible households during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible households can get benefits that include up to $50/month discount for broadband services and a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider. Households that are eligible include the following, if one member of the household:
  • Qualifies for the Lifeline program, including those who are on Medicaid or receive SNAP benefits;
  • Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, or did so in the 2019- 2020 school year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and
  • The household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
Click HERE for more information on other household eligibility categories and benefits. Click HERE to begin the application. 
RECOGNITION
April is volunteer appreciation month!
Portland Phoenix Story Features Make It Happen!

PPS’ Make It Happen! program, which helps ensure that multilingual students succeed in college, just won a prestigious Magna Award. This Phoenix story helps show why this program is so important for our students.
 
PPS Educators Win Outdoor Learning Grants

Portland Public Schools educators are among those statewide this spring receiving Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA) mini-grants to support outdoor learning. The grant program allows educators to apply for up to $1,500 to fund their outdoor learning projects.

Schools receiving grants in the MEEA’s 2021 spring cycle include East End Community School, Lincoln Middle School and Gerald E. Talbot Community School. PPS Outdoor Learning Coordinator Brooke Teller also won a grant to enhance the outdoor learning experience district-wide. The grant recipients this round received between approximately $600 to $1,500 to support their projects. The grants will be used in a variety of ways, including creating more comfortable outdoor seating options, purchasing nets and thermometers to help students study vernal ponds and helping students have a positive outdoor learning experience “waking up” a garden this spring. Learn about the winners and their projects.

Casco Bay Seniors Aim to Educate Others

More than 20 Casco Bay High School seniors created educational websites as part of their Senior Expedition culminations.  You can check them all out here
PARENT UNIVERSITY
AFTER THE FALL:
Stories of Survival, Hope and Resilience

April 28, 2021  7:00-8:30 PM
April 30, 1975 marked the end of the Vietnam conflict that affected the lives of many Vietnamese, Khmer, Lao, Hmong, and Americans. Join us for an evening of sharing personal stories from Maine residents who experienced the war and its aftermath --- and prevailed!

This workshop is an offering to celebrate the upcoming month of May as Asian American Heritage Month.
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