March 26, 2021
Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
I’m writing to share with you the latest update about the next steps to increase in-person instruction at all grade levels. Our high schools communicated with students and families earlier this week with new building-specific schedules for grade 10-12 students to attend school in person two days per week, starting early in April. Our elementary and middle schools will be sending similar communications to families early next week about having students in those grade spans attend in person four days per week. Our goal for implementing that change is April 26, following the April break.  Read on to learn the reasons for these changes and more details about them. 
We are looking forward to having more students in our classes again.  We strongly believe that increased in-person time is a powerful intervention to address the opportunity gaps and overall mental health challenges that have been heightened by the pandemic.  We are happy that the decreased incidence of COVID and an increase in vaccinations and testing make this expansion of in-person instruction possible at this time.  Our staff has been working diligently to respond to our community’s needs by making preparations for our students’ safe return.  
We are counting on our families to help us be successful. Most of the positive cases for students and staff originate outside of school but the Maine DOE is reporting an uptick in COVID in schools as a result. Families must continue to follow our health and safety protocols, including:
  • Wearing masks at all times when you are outside your home or at school. 
  • Following physical distancing guidelines. 
  • Continuing to do the daily symptom check. Do not send students to school if they have symptoms or if they have been tested and are awaiting results.   
Very importantly, as April break approaches, please see the latest travel guidance. The number of positive cases in Cumberland County has reduced from the winter peak but continues to be significant – and we continue to see positive cases among students and staff. When we learn of positive cases this spring, we will continue to quarantine students and unvaccinated staff as needed. Also, if cases and the positivity rating in Cumberland County climb again, we will adapt our plans in the way we have done all year.
In addition to the changes we have announced at our high schools, we believe the following plans for elementary and middle schools reflect a meaningful increase of in-person learning from our current hybrid model as we prepare for a full return in the fall, conditions permitting:  
Elementary and Middle Schools 
After considering the benefits and challenges of the various strategies to increase in-person learning, we have decided that all elementary and middle schools will return all students four days per week for in-person learning. At this time, we will continue with the current bell schedules for all schools.  Wednesdays will remain an opportunity for targeted support for students, in addition to staff collaboration and professional development.
At the middle schools, we are able to do this because of the new CDC guidance that allows for students to be 3 feet apart from each other when masked and as long as they stay in a defined group of students (cohort) for the full day. We are maintaining 6 feet of distance at the high schools because their schedules do not allow us to maintain these defined groups. 
Unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate any transfers into or out of Remote Academy for elementary and middle school students. 
The target date for implementing this increase of in-person learning is Monday, April 26.
Spring Co-Curriculars
We plan to provide a spring sports season for our middle school and high school athletes, as long as safety protocols are strictly maintained. Communication about spring sports and co-curriculars is being sent separately by our principals and athletic directors to families.  The new guidelines will be implemented as the specific activities begin their schedules.
This pandemic continues to pose challenges for all of us – families, students and staff. We look forward to expanding in-person learning as we continue our planning ahead for in-person, full-time instruction this fall. I’m confident that if we all pull together in the same direction, we can make these new changes safe and successful for everyone. Thank you for your patience and support during this trying year.
Xavier Botana, Superintendent

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 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 March 26th update.

Check out the FY22 budget calendar to join meetings on the budget development process. You can also view Budget Development materials at this link. The Portland Board of Public Education will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget on April 6, 2021. The Board will vote on April 13 to recommend its FY22 school budget to the Portland City Council. 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.

Ocean Avenue Elementary School custodian Donna Colello has been nominated nationally for the Cintas 2021 Custodian of the Year contest, and she is now one of the top 10 finalists. Here is the link to vote through April 16 to help her and her school win recognition and prizes. Each person can vote once a day. Donna is the only custodian from the Northeast, and only one of two women!  
Remembering School Volunteer Ken Bedder

Kenneth Bedder, a dedicated math team coach and tutor at Presumpscot Elementary School, died of cancer on March 10 at the age of 71. A teacher by profession, he became a school volunteer in retirement. His daughter, District 4 Board of Public Education member Aura Russell-Bedder, said he started volunteering around 2015 and coached the math team until early 2020, even while beginning chemotherapy. “I even went to help him once when he was carrying his chemo pump on him,” his daughter recalled. The Portland Public Schools is extremely grateful for Ken’s years of caring service to students. We extend our deepest condolences to his family. Read Ken’s obituary here.
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