From Tim Matheney, Superintendent of Schools
August 18, 2021
NEWS & NOTES
Returning to Full In-Person Learning
We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our students in just two weeks. In preparation, our districtwide Leadership Team met for two full days last week, and I’m confident we have a great plan to welcome students back to full, in-person learning. As we approach the first day of school, I wanted to share a few highlights of our preparations in light of the ongoing pandemic:
Masking. Like most, if not all, districts in our vicinity, we will require all students and staff -- regardless of vaccination status -- to wear masks indoors and on buses. Masks may be removed outdoors. (For specific guidance on appropriate types of masks, please see page 4 of the Family Guide for School Reopening.)
Contact tracing. We will continue to trace contacts among individuals who test positive for the coronavirus and follow Maine quarantine guidelines.
Mask breaks. All students will have an opportunity to remove their masks in a safe manner every day. Teachers will be sharing more information about this once school begins.
Stay home when sick. Students who have symptoms of infectious illness, such as influenza (flu) or COVID-19, should stay home and refer to their healthcare provider for testing and care, regardless of vaccination status. Staying home when sick with COVID-19 is essential to keep infections out of schools and prevent spread to others. Students are required to do a self screening tool daily (see the last page of this document) prior to coming to school. Please let your school nurse know if your family needs a thermometer.
Pooled testing. We are continuing to monitor local COVID case data and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of pooled testing. We are reviewing the program through conversations with state officials and other districts who’ve adopted it. Though we have not decided to move forward with pooled testing right now, we revisit the decision based on COVID case numbers and positivity rates on a regular basis.
Vaccinations. The COVID vaccine is widely available and remains the best approach to protecting the health of our children and maintaining five-days-a-week, in-person learning. We encourage all families who have not yet been vaccinated to seek out the guidance of their family doctor. (Vaccinations are available in South Portland at Walgreens and the Mill Creek and Maine Mall Hannaford stores in addition to health care centers. For more information, click here.)
Continued monitoring. South Portland’s approach was very successful in providing for safe in-person learning last year, and I’m very optimistic that this will continue this fall. In general, with universal masking, physical distancing whenever feasible, and the monitoring and vigilance of our outstanding nursing staff, I'm very hopeful that we will have a very successful and safe return to full, in person-learning.
For more complete information, please see the Family Guide for School Reopening. If you have questions about the specific operations of your child’s school, I encourage you to contact your principal.
Maintaining Federal Funding: We Need Your Help
Even though school meals in South Portland are free and available to all students, we need your help! By completing this very simple, quick form about school meals, you help us maintain our important federal funding that provides much needed direct support for our students. We encourage ALL families to complete this form regardless of income levels. If a majority of our families complete the form, we may be able to secure even more federal funding in the future.
New Middle School
Our construction contractors continue to make great progress on our new middle school. I’m pleased to share this time-lapse video that shows how the construction site has evolved since work started in June. Our work in developing the programming for the new middle school is making progress as well. The Middle School Program Design Committee met for two intensive planning days this summer, and that work will continue throughout the next two school years. Here’s a photo from the site last Friday with Memorial Middle School in the background:
As you may know, my entry plan has guided my first seven weeks as Superintendent. I’ve already conducted 40 interviews with staff members, parents, and community leaders and have thoroughly enjoyed those conversations. I’m looking forward to visiting classrooms and hosting focus groups with students and parents once school starts. (If you’re curious about learning more about me, please see page 5 of the entry plan.)
The School Department has a number of job opportunities available. Please take a look and share the information with others who might be interested in submitting an application. In particular, we are seeking applicants for our Human Resources Coordinator position. See our employment web page for more information.
South Portland in the News
We look forward to welcoming your children on September 1. Please feel free to email me with any questions or call 871-0555. And don’t forget to support our students by completing the school lunch form today!
Superintendent of Schools
PRE-SCREENING TOOL FOR SCHOOL ATTENDANCE
Students should review the following questions before attending school every day:
Within the past 24 hours have you had a fever or taken fever reducing medication?
Do you feel sick, had vomiting/diarrhea, fever, sore throat or felt unwell?
Have you been told to stay home and isolate/quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure?
Stay home with any YES response to the questions above.
Students can attend school when all the answers to the questions are NO and they are feeling well with no other symptoms of illness. Please call your school nurse if you have questions.
If students have any illness, they should stay at home until they have no fever and have gone 24 hours without fever reducing medication and symptoms are improving or gone.