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Jan. 14, 2022 PPS Weekly COVID update

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Jan. 14, 2022 PPS Weekly COVID update
Posted on 01/14/2022
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This Portland Public Schools’ COVID-19 advisory reports numbers from the past two weeks, starting with January 2nd and continuing through January 15th.

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 continue to notify families about positive cases, but we no longer send letters for each positive case to the whole school community. Instead, we communicate with a positive individual’s homeroom class and staff at the elementary school level and we communicate with the “house” and any related staff at the middle school level. At the high school level, we continue to identify students who were in the classes where the positive case was present and communicate with those students, staff and families. These close contacts will be able to continue to attend school. However, if they are not fully vaccinated, they will be required to quarantine in the community per the state and federal guidance.

Participation in our pooled testing program in kindergarten through grade 8 is ongoing. Pre-kindergarten classes within PPS schools also are able to participate. We began pooled testing at our high schools for our student athletes this past week. The district will 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.

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.

Our district is seeing an increasing number of positive COVID cases as the omicron variant spreads throughout Maine – more than 900 cases over the past two weeks. That number is about 12 percent of our total number of students and staff. To date, staff absences have increased to just over 12 percent from an average of approximately 8 percent before winter break. And for students, average daily attendance remains above 80 percent overall and just below 90 percent at the elementary level.

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.

However, 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.

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 before we close a whole school. This past week, students in kindergarten and a special education program at Talbot Community School switched to remote learning, as did pre-kindergarten students at Lyseth Elementary School and Children’s Odyssey. A total of about 115 students were impacted.

Below is a chart showing positive cases by school over the past two weeks.

 

Grade Level

School Name

Week of 1/2/2022

Week of 1/9/2022

Elementary

Cliff & Peak Island Schools

1

2

East End Community School

20

42

Gerald E. Talbot Community School

29

42

Longfellow Elementary School

9

17

Lyseth Elementary School

38

26

Ocean Avenue School

36

36

Presumpscot Elementary School

10

7

Reiche Elementary School

30

17

Rowe Elementary School

29

41

Middle School

King Middle School

29

45

Lincoln Middle School

25

37

Lyman Moore Middle School

46

47

High School

Casco Bay High School

20

31

Deering High School

58

45

Portland Arts and Technology High School

0

0

Portland High School

71

60

TOTAL

 

451

495

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.

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.