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Portland Looks To Increase In-Person Instruction For High Schoolers — But It's Unclear When

Tom Porter
Maine Public file

Portland school officials outlined a plan Tuesday night to regularly bring 10th through 12th graders back into school — though leaders gave no time frame of when that might happen. While the vast majority of Maine students are back in school for at least a few days per week, these students have largely been remote since last spring.

At a school board meeting, Superintendent Xavier Botana outlined a proposal for those students to return for about two hours, two days per week, citing data showing that more than 100 students were “deeply disconnected” from school. However, Botana noted several challenges, including finding enough staff and maintaining six-foot distances in classrooms.

“I’m resisting saying, ‘We’ll do it by such and such a date.’ Because I don’t know that I can solve for all of the challenges that we know are underneath all of the labels, at a date certain,” he said.

But some students, including Portland High School Junior Tess Conroy, said the new proposal didn’t go far enough, and pointed to several other local schools that offered more in-classroom time.

“I think that the new proposed plan for adding in-person time for high schoolers is far too little. And without a start date, it will be far too late,” Conroy said.

The school board heard from dozens of students and parents calling for a return to in-person learning, with many pointing to mental health concerns for students after nearly a year of remote instruction.

As part of the plan, the district is also looking at testing students and staff for COVID-19 on a regular basis.