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Portland school board reviews plans for more in-person learning

An assistant superintendent said they are working to adjust feedback from the school community about a proposal to return to more in-person learning.

PORTLAND, Maine — It's been exactly one year since the Portland Public School District shut down in-person learning. At Tuesday night's school board meeting, the district reviewed plans to get kids back into the classroom.

Sophomores, juniors, and seniors at Portland and Deering high schools have been learning remotely since last March. One of the assistant superintendents said they are working to adjust feedback from students, staff, and families about a proposal to return to in-person learning, which includes a two-day hybrid approach. No more details were released.

For pre-K through eighth-grade students, the district said it is considering many strategies including bringing students back four days a week, but an assistant superintendent said there are challenges with that strategy.

"Many of the challenges vary by school, such as some schools will have challenges with maintaining distancing while eating. Some are facing challenges with ensuring schools will need to build new classroom routines and cultures with emerged cohorts. There would be work to reconfigure many of the classroom spaces and would have to move classrooms," said assistant superintendent Melea Nalli.

Parents did voice their frustrations about not having a decision made and not being part of discussions.

"As a parent and as a taxpayer, just the lack of transparency. Like I don't understand why we can't have a forum or can't have an avenue to get our questions answered," said one parent.

The district said it's important to increase in-person instruction. It hopes to have a decision made next week.

Superintendent Xavier Botana also presented his $125.8 million school budget proposal for FY22.

He said his budget puts the district's Equity goal at the center, calling for investments to reduce achievement and opportunity gaps for students who are English language learners, have disabilities, and are economically disadvantaged. 

Directly related to the pandemic, the budget calls for more nursing and social work staffing and proposed funding to help better integrate new investments in technology made over the past year and expand outdoor learning.

The school board referred the superintendent’s proposed budget to the city financial committee.

Watch the whole meeting below: