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Portland schools delay resuming full-time classes for elementary students

3 October 2020 No Comment

Space, distancing and staffing challenges all together made a contribution to the decision not to resume full-time classroom instruction October 13, according to a letter of the Superintendent sent to families.

Some parents in Portland Public Schools said that they support the decision of Superintendent Xavier Botana to not bring elementary students back to in-person learning five days each week as the district had hoped it might be able to do by the middle of October.

Botana announced the decision in a letter to families, saying that staffing, physical space, and the impact of bringing twice as many students into schools as usual could increase the district’s risk of contracting COVID-19 and change their ability to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic while providing instruction.

Most elementary school students in the largest district of Maine are currently attending in-person classes two days each week and learning online the other days. Moreover, almost 19% of preschool students are attending at Remote Academy, the district’s only option for remote learning.

Botana also said in his letter that the number of students in schools increased would raise concerns about physical space, making it difficult to ensure physically distance, particularly during meals as students are supposed by state guidelines to be 6 feet apart.

Botana added that bringing all students back in-person learning would also stretch the capacity of nursing staff. While the district has sufficient substitutes lined up now, shortages might happen if the number of absent teachers increases.

According to the reopening plan in August, the district would re-evaluate the model for elementary students through 5th grade to see whether they could return in-person five days each week by October 13. The board will have a discussion about the decision next Tuesday. Botana said the district will go on to evaluate its ability to increase in-person studying.

Botana said he is cognizant that access to childcare under the hybrid learning model has been challenging many families and spots remain available in community partner programs that the district is providing before and after school.

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