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Oct. 22, 2021 PPS Weekly COVID update

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Oct. 22, 2021 PPS Weekly COVID update
Posted on 10/22/2021
This is the image for the news article titled Oct. 22, 2021 PPS Weekly COVID updateThe district puts out an update each week with the number of positive cases associated with our schools that week & any closures or outbreaks, to keep everyone informed.

This Portland Public Schools’ COVID-19 advisory covers the time period from Oct. 16 through today, Friday, Oct. 22. 

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.

Pooled testing in grades K-6 – where students currently aren’t eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine – began Sept. 20 and is proceeding smoothly. 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. For example, two positive cases at East End Community School this week resulted in 13 close contacts needing to quarantine but without pooled testing, those cases would have resulted in 94 individuals in quarantine. 

That 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.

We currently have more than 2,500 students K-6 participating in pooled testing – greater than 75 percent of eligible participants. The district is now close to having the additional staff in place to expand pooled testing to PreK and students in grades 7 and 8. (PreK pooled testing is available only for PreK students attending sites in district schools, not partner sites.) Families in these grade spans can start registering their children at our Pooled Testing Page now. Pooled testing for PreK students is expected to begin Monday, Oct. 25. Pooled testing for grade 7 and 8 students will begin Nov. 1, pending sufficient staffing. 

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. 

We also are pleased to report that district-wide, our vaccination rate for our staff has increased from 91 percent to 92 percent, as we reported Sept. 30 to the Maine Department of Education. 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 who are eligible but 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. Here’s a link to find vaccination sites in Maine. That site also contains information about booster shot eligibility that applies to staff.

Positive cases and close contacts required to quarantine associated with PPS schools from Oct. 16 through Oct. 22: 
Casco Bay High School: 2 positives, 7 close contacts
Deering High School: 2 positives, 6 close contacts
East End Community School: 2 positives, 13 close contacts
Longfellow Elementary School: 1 positive, 0 close contacts
Lyman Moore Middle School: 4 positives, 9 close contacts
Portland High School: 2 positives,  27 close contacts
Presumpscot Elementary School: 2 positives, 0 close contacts
Reiche Community School: 2 positives, 0 close contacts

*Note: Some cases may have 0 close contacts, for several reasons. It may be.  because they have not been at school during their infectious period, so there was no exposure within the school community. It also may be because the close contacts have been vaccinated or a part of pooled testing and didn’t have any symptoms, so could stay in school.

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 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.