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Jan. 21, 2022 PPS Weekly COVID update

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Jan. 21, 2022 PPS Weekly COVID update
Posted on 01/21/2022
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This Portland Public Schools’ COVID-19 advisory reports numbers from the past three weeks, starting with Jan. 2 and continuing through Jan. 22.

These advisories give the number of positive cases by school, but don’t list quarantines. That is because new guidance from the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) says that close contacts of a positive case in schools that have a universal mask mandate – as the Portland Public Schools does – do not have to quarantine.

Due to health privacy laws, the district does not disclose specific information about individuals that test positive, such as whether they’re staff or students, the grade level they’re associated with, vaccination status, etc.

The weekly advisories are an effort to keep the broader PPS community informed. We no longer send letters for each positive case to the whole school community. Instead, at the elementary level, we communicate with a positive individual’s homeroom class. At the high school and middle school level, we are now suspending contact tracing per that latest state guidance, so won’t be communicating directly with secondary school families. Instead, we are making the district’s COVID-19 Report Card more accessible on our homepage and will refresh this live document daily so that families have access to ongoing case counts by school.

Participation in our pooled testing program in kindergarten through grade 8 is ongoing. Pre-kindergarten classes within PPS schools also are able to participate. Pooled testing at our high schools for our student athletes is underway. At the present time, the district hopes to scale up pooled testing for the rest of our high school students and at our partner pre-K sites once we hire additional med-techs to give our staff the capacity to be able to expand testing at these levels.

Due to the Monday holiday, Monday’s pooled testing was moved to Wednesday this week only. At several schools, pool results were not available until after dismissal Friday. We will resume our regular pooled testing schedule Monday. Pooled testing remains an important surveillance tool in monitoring the prevalence of the virus in our schools. In most schools, we saw a decrease in positive pools from last week to this week.

Pooled testing is free and voluntary. Families of students in eligible grades must register their children to participate, and staff can continue to opt in also. There is open enrollment, but families must register their student by a Friday to be included in the following week's pool.

District-wide, our staff vaccination rate is more than 94 percent, as of the latest data. We continue to offer a $100 incentive to staff that show their supervisor proof of vaccination, and we also are offering another $100 incentive for any staff member who provides visual proof to their supervisor that they have received their first booster shot. Vaccines and boosters remain the foremost protection against COVID. Those in the PPS community who aren’t vaccinated or haven’t received boosters are urged to get their shot. PPS is holding weekly vaccination clinics at our secondary schools for students. Here’s a link to find vaccination sites in Maine. That site also contains information about booster shots.

At this time, it’s critical that we continue with our mitigation layers – including vaccines and boosters, universal masking indoors and on buses, pooled testing, daily symptom checks, maximizing physical distancing and learning outdoors as much as possible – to help keep schools safe.

Additionally, we will continue to look at our case counts, our staffing levels and other relevant factors to make decisions about continuity of in-person instruction, based on our data. Here is our updated Outbreak Status and Closure Criteria.  According to an MDOE website reporting COVID cases over the past 30 days, numerous Portland schools are classified as outbreaks: Casco Bay and Portland high schools; Lincoln, King and Moore middle schools; and East End, Longfellow, Ocean Avenue, Presumpscot, Reiche, Rowe and Talbot elementary schools. School outbreak status does not necessarily warrant school closure and can be evaluated on a case-by case basis. The CDC and our administration will continue to monitor absences and case counts in these schools and evaluate if any further action is warranted.

Also, we are carefully looking at the incidence of cases to determine if our mitigation layers continue to hold up.  In keeping with our goal to minimize disruptions to student learning, we are looking at options like closing classrooms, programs and grades or teams, switching students to remote learning, before we close a whole school. Last week, we closed Talbot Community School’s kindergarten and Functional Life Skills programs and the Lyseth Elementary School pre-kindergarten (at PATHS) due to staffing concerns.

This week, we closed a couple of intermediate classes at Talbot and one at Rowe Elementary School and closed three classes midweek at Lyseth Elementary School. In these instances, we were responding to significant numbers of students who tested positive in an effort to short out this emerging pattern. Students in those classes learned remotely through the end of this week. St. Elizabeth’s Partnership PreK also closed this week for similar reasons.

Below is a chart showing positive cases by school over the past few weeks. The numbers are current as of Friday afternoon, Jan. 21. Here’s a link to the district’s Report Card on positive cases to date. You can refer to this live document throughout the week for updated numbers.

 

Grade Level

School Name

Week of 1/2/2022

Week of

1/9/2022

Week of 1/16/2022

Elementary

Cliff & Peak Island Schools

1

2

3

East End Community School

20

42

28

Gerald E. Talbot Community School

31

43

13

Longfellow Elementary School

10

21

3

Lyseth Elementary School

38

40

14

Ocean Avenue School

36

38

17

Presumpscot Elementary School

10

8

7

Reiche Elementary School

30

17

17

Rowe Elementary School

29

41

31

Middle School

King Middle School

29

46

17

Lincoln Middle School

25

38

18

Lyman Moore Middle School

46

47

40

High School

Casco Bay High School

20

31

9

Deering High School

58

49

18

Portland Arts and Technology HS

0

0

2

Portland High School

71

63

19

TOTAL

 

454

526

256

*Cases the week of 1/2/2022 may include cases reported over the winter vacation.

 

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. 52 percent of the district’s students are white and 48 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.