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Nov. 19, 2021 PPS Weekly COVID update

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Nov. 19, 2021 PPS Weekly COVID update
Posted on 11/19/2021
This is the image for the news article titled Nov. 19, 2021 PPS Weekly COVID update This Portland Public Schools’ COVID-19 advisory covers the time period from Nov. 11 through today, Friday, Nov. 19. 

This advisory includes the number of positive cases associated with our schools during this period and any outbreak declarations or building closures as a result. PPS notifies students, families and staff of impacted schools immediately when we receive notice of positive cases, but the weekly advisory is an effort to keep the broader PPS community informed. 

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 federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5-11. Working with our partners at Northern Light Healthcare, the Portland Public Schools began offering in-school COVID vaccines beginning Monday, Nov. 15, for students age 5-11. Vaccines are optional and children must have parental/guardian permission. More than 800 young students were vaccinated at school clinics this week.

Parents have been provided with an online link to sign a permission form for their children and hard copy forms are also being sent home. The Portland Public Schools is excited that this extra layer of protection is now available for our young students. Families can learn more HERE.

Our pooled testing program began in grades K-6 in September and recently expanded to include PreK students at our elementary schools and students in grades 7 and 8. The program is very successful. We currently have more than 3,000 students PreK through grade 8 participating in pooled testing – close to 70 percent of all of our eligible participants – and enrollment is ongoing. Pooled testing participation by teachers and school support staff also is quite high. 

Pooled PCR testing can detect cases of COVID at incredibly low levels, catching cases in asymptomatic individuals before they become symptomatic or infectious, thus reducing spread. 

Our data shows that pooled testing and our other mitigation layers – including vaccines, universal masking indoors and on buses, daily symptom checks, maximizing physical distancing in classrooms through seating charts and room configurations and learning outdoors as much as possible – are allowing us to keep many more students in school.

Pooled testing is free and voluntary. PPS urges all families of students in eligible grades to register their children for our free pooled testing program to help keep our schools safer. 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 has increased to 94 percent, as of the latest October data. We continue to offer a $100 vaccination bonus payment to any remaining staff who show their vaccination card to their supervisors.

Those in the PPS community not yet vaccinated – staff, students, families and other community members – 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 shot eligibility, which applies to staff.

Positive cases and close contacts required to quarantine associated with PPS schools from Nov. 11 through Nov. 19: 
Casco Bay High School:  3 positives, 0 quarantines
Deering High School: 8 positives, 10 quarantines
East End Community School: 2 positives, 1 quarantine
King Middle School: 1 positive, 3 quarantines
Lincoln Middle School: 1 positive, 0 close contacts
Lyman Moore Middle School: 3 positives, 5 quarantines
Presumpscot Elementary School: 3 positives, 8 quarantines
Reiche Community School: 1 positive, 2 quarantines
Rowe Elementary School:  4 positives, 0 close contacts
Talbot Community School: 2 positives, 13 quarantines

*Note: Some cases may have 0 close contacts, because they have not been at school during their infectious period, so there was no exposure within the school community. Here’s a link to the district’s Report Card on the status of all positive cases to date. Here’s also a link to the district’s Outbreak Status and Closure Criteria

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.