The Portland and Deering girls’ basketball teams compete during a game in March. Student-athletes in Portland Public Schools will be required to be vaccinated or to participate in pooled testing in order to play sports this winter. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Portland Public Schools will require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or to take part in pooled testing in order to participate in extracurricular activities this winter.

However, pooled testing will not become available to student-athletes at Deering, Portland and Casco Bay high schools until early January. It is immediately unclear whether unvaccinated athletes will have to sit out until that time, or whether there will be a grace period for those students until pooled testing begins.

Notification of the COVID-19 protocols were sent to school district families on Monday, according to Tess Nacelewicz, the communications coordinator for Portland Public Schools.

Athletic directors Lance Johnson (Portland High) and Michael Daly (Deering) did not return phone and text messages Tuesday afternoon seeking clarification on the impact of the school district’s policy.

Practices for most winter sports began on Nov. 22, with competitions scheduled to begin on Dec. 10. Winter sports, with the exception of skiing, are held indoors.

Many schools in Maine use pooled testing to mitigate the need for students to quarantine in the event of a close-contact to a positive COVID-19 test. In mid-November the Augusta school district became the first in the state to require all student-athletes to participate in pooled testing. Portland Public Schools currently have voluntary pooled testing programs available only at the pre-K to 8th grade levels.

According to the memo sent to Portland school district families, “All student participants will need to be either vaccinated against COVID-19 or to participate in pooled testing to participate in a winter co-curricular activity.” It then states: “We anticipate pooled testing for high school students participating in co-curriculars to be available by the beginning of January.”

Other points about how winter sports will be conducted, as well as spectator requirements, were included in the memo. They include:

All students, staff and spectators will be required to wear masks at all times indoors, in both practices/rehearsals and games/performances.

Portland Public School teams will not play against teams that do not require masking.

The school district reserves the right to cancel or suspend events or public attendance if masking is not practiced.

Spectators will be limited to 50 percent capacity at any of the school district’s facilities, and no concessions will be sold.

King Middle School will not have any spectators at its gym because of space limitations.


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