A plan to reconfigure Portland’s eight mainland elementary schools is being withdrawn from the proposed 2020-2021 school budget amid uncertainty around the coronavirus, although Superintendent Xavier Botana said he plans to move ahead with the proposal the following year.

“It is responsible to take a step back and work on an implementation plan with a longer timeline, given the amount of questions about the reconfiguration, the challenge of having a meaningful public discussion about it given the restrictions on public meetings and the general uncertainty facing all of us with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Botana said in a news release Thursday.

The proposal, which would have reconfigured the eight schools into four pre-K-2 schools and four schools for grades 3-5, was estimated to save about $1 million in the proposed $122.3 million budget.

But the proposal also would mean the elimination of 20 classroom teachers and would jeopardize federal school meal reimbursements by changing the number of students in each school who qualify for free and reduced price lunch.

Approximately $1 million in investments in the district’s “equity” work, aimed at reducing achievement gaps between certain groups of students, will also be postponed until the 2021-2022 budget.

Botana said he will not support an increase in the tax rate beyond City Council guidance, which currently calls for no more than a 3 percent increase in the school budget. But he said even if that were to change he would still advocate for the reconfiguration in 2021-2022.

“I believe elementary reconfiguration is a viable educational move that I am committed to moving forward along with other efficiency measures in the next budget year,” he said.

Other proposals that remain in Botana’s budget include the elimination of three high school teaching positions based on enrollment, fourth- and fifth-grade Spanish classes, a custodian position and several other reductions.

Thursday’s news release also noted the district is expecting a $650,000 shortfall in federal grant funds, and said the delay in the elementary school reconfiguration will make it harder to accommodate that reduction.

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