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School Board To Discuss Key Topics Jan. 21

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School Board To Discuss Key Topics Jan. 21
Posted on 01/16/2020
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The Portland Board of Public Education has a packed agenda for its Tuesday, Jan. 21, meeting. Among issues it will discuss are renaming Riverton Elementary School to honor Portland civil rights icon Gerald E. Talbot; the pros and cons of potentially reconfiguring the district’s eight mainland elementary schools into four “primary” schools and four “intermediate” schools; and holding a workshop on revisions to the district’s Lau Plan, a federally mandated plan that ensures students who are English language learners (ELL) get the services they need.

 The Board’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at Casco Bay High School in room 200, also known as the Great Space. The school is located at 196 Allen Avenue.

 The meeting also will be streamed live on the district's Facebook page and on local educational cable Channel 1302. You can stream on any device. To watch live streaming go to:

At the meeting, the board will hold a first reading of a resolution to rename Riverton for Talbot, a Portland resident and community leader who was the first African American elected to the Maine Legislature. Talbot also is an educator, author, historian, civil and human rights activist and founding president of the Portland branch of the NAACP. The Board will hold a workshop on the renaming at its meeting. It could schedule a second reading, public hearing and vote on the proposal as early as Feb. 4.

Learn more about the proposal to rename Riverton for Gerald Talbot: 

The Board also will begin discussing the potential advantages and challenges of reconfiguring the district’s eight elementary schools for both cost-saving and educational reasons. Creating four primary schools for students in pre-K through grade 2 and four intermediate schools for students in grades 3-5 was one of the scenarios considered by the district’s Enrollment and Facility Study Commission.

That commission was created in the fall of 2018 to identify and recommend possible cost-saving efficiencies in school usage to address projected declines in state aid. While the Commission’s final report in early 2019 didn’t result in any immediate reconfigurations, the report continues to be a resource for evaluating efficiencies. 

Elementary school reconfiguration is being looked at ahead of the FY21 budget, which again projects a loss of state funding for the Portland Public Schools.  The budget forecast is that a decrease in state revenue coupled with increased costs could lead to a $7-million to $8-million budget gap. The elementary school reconfiguration could save between $660,000 and $780,000 because fewer classrooms would be needed, and it also would enhance Equity and other goals of the Portland Promise, the district’s strategic plan. 

By having an entire school use a primary or an intermediate instructional model, the district would be able to better focus instruction, curriculum, and programming to continue to work toward its Achievement and Whole Student goals.  The reconfiguration also would further the district’s Equity goal by making elementary schools more like the district’s secondary schools, with more balanced demographic make-up and diversity, which benefits all learners. Reductions achieved through this reconfiguration would allow the district to preserve and grow programming focused on reducing opportunity gaps. 

Additionally, The Board also will evaluate challenges inherent to the reconfiguration proposal, such as additional school transitions for students, and consider how those might be mitigated. 

In another workshop on Jan. 21, the Board will discuss the district’s Lau Plan for ELL students. That plan ensures the proper identification, programming and English language services for students who are English language learners (ELLs). That policy is updated on an ongoing basis, based on the latest research, demographic trends and program evaluation. 

The current Lau plan has been in place since 2010, and has served as the guiding document for the district’s English Language Development program for the past decade. The content is anchored by current best practice, the expertise of the district’s dedicated educators and the community’s commitment to multilingual students who are English learners. 

The revised plan to be presented incorporates recently adopted U.S. and Maine Department of Education terminology and school district organizational changes. The edits reflect minor technical changes to the text of the policy without substantive changes.