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Portland Public Schools launch new campaign to bridge opportunity gap

Education leaders are asking for community support as they say that shifting funds for systemic change work is "challenging."
Portland Public Schools are the most diverse school group in Maine
Portland Public Schools are the most diverse school group in Maine(Gray tv)
Published: Jul. 19, 2020 at 9:34 AM EDT
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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - A new campaign called "Addressing the Opportunity Gap" is raising money to support equity work in Portland Public Schools.

The group Foundation for Portland Public Schools announced a strategic plan which included providing additional support for English language learners and the creation of pilot program to specifically benefit students of color.

The group is also seeking ways to incorporate African and Wabanaki studies in the curriculum of all three public high schools in Portland.

The director of Foundation for Portland Public Schools says inequities have always existed in our schools, but the coronavirus pandemic has made them more obvious.

"One of the [examples of inequities] is access to Internet and technology," said Andrea Weisman Summers, the director of FPPS. "Even though the district has provided one for one devices for high school and middle school students, some students don't necessarily have Internet at home."

According to Weisman Summers, the majority of students who struggled to connect remotely were disproportionately low-income students and English language learners.

Education leaders are asking for community support as they say that shifting funds for systemic change work is "challenging."

"Portland voters are generous supporters of our schools. But we still have many unmet needs," said Xavier Botana, the superintendent of Portland Public Schools. "The Foundation was created to leverage the energy and passion of our community to targeted and specific unmet needs. In this particular moment in our city, state and country, it is clear that we must do more than what we're doing to close the opportunity gaps, and I am hopeful that Portlanders will rally to this campaign."

Portland Public Schools is the most diverse school district in Maine, with 47 percent of students identifying as BIPOC and over 60 languages spoken at home.

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