PORTLAND — Superintendent Xavier Botana, following the guidance of the Maine Department of Education, has extended the closure of city schools for the remainder of the school year. Remote learning will continue until then.

“This is a difficult decision for us. I acknowledge the difficulties that extending remote learning to the end of the school year now poses for everyone in the Portland Public Schools community,” Botana wrote in an April 8 letter to parents and community members. “It means you will have to continue to cope with childcare and managing school expectations while grappling with the other financial and personal impacts of this crisis. However, the safety of everyone in the (Portland Public Schools) community is our prime concern.”

The decision, he said,  “is based on guidance  from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that recommends an 8- to 20-week time frame for avoiding large group/in-person instruction once there is evidence of community transmission of COVID-19,” which is occurring in Cumberland and York counties.

Botana said plans are underway for end of the year activities, including grading and graduation. Those details will be communicated prior to April school vacation, which begins April 17.

Schools have been operating in remote fashion through a series of paper packets, online instruction, video conferencing and the use of other technology since March 16.

“When we started the 2019-2020 school year, no one could have guessed that we would end the year physically separated from one another, learning remotely,” Botana said. “I continue to be so proud and impressed with how everyone in the Portland Public Schools – staff, students and families – is doing their best to not only cope with our new learning reality but also to make it as successful as it can be.”

Breakfast and lunch will continue to be provided to students from 10 a.m. to noon at area schools throughout the extended closure. Meals will not be available, however, on Patriots Day Monday, April 20. The Boys and Girls Clubs in Portland and South Portland are offering grab and go dinners Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.  The Locker Project and food pantries across the city are also offering pre-packaged food for students and soup kitchens are offering take-home meals.

More information about remote learning and access food during the closure can be found on the COVID-19 section of the district’s website.

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