It isn't the most welcome sight to find in a mailbox.

Portland Public Schools teachers this week are receiving letters from the district reminding them that they have the option of early retirement or taking an unpaid leave of absence.

Teachers always have that option, district spokesman Matt Shelby says, but 'if you can get someone to retire early or take a leave for a year, that's one more position you're able to fill with an unassigned teacher.'

In other words, the district still faces major staff cuts even after voters approved renewal of the local-option levy, bringing $19 million to the district over two years.

The school board will will finalize the other $20 million in needed cuts this month.

Cuts to the core subjects will be deep, Shelby warns. Expect music to take a big hit, since a 'Save P.E.' movement last year resulted in a mandate to protect P.E. in every building.

• • •

Where to go for off-campus lunch options; how to sign up for sports and clubs and lockers; which buses take to get to school - those are just some of the tips Marshall High School students are getting from their peers at Franklin and Madison high, where they'll be attending next year.

In two separate newsletters, small groups of students at Franklin and Madison have compiled the primers for the 650 or so incoming Marshall students just as the school year wraps up.

They get points for creativity, using entertaining graphics like President James Madison in a trucker hat and Ben Franklin in shades and a smiley-face button.

They combine teen lingo - 'True dat!' and 'Check it out, yo!' - with essential information like what classes and programs are offered and what their new school colors and mascots are.

More than 1,000 people gathered June 4 in a tribute to Marshall.

• • •

Last month, the Tribune reported that the number of births in the Pearl District - evidence of the need for a Portland Public Schools early childhood center - was on the rise.

That was true according to the latest available data for 2008.

Now that the city has compiled the data for 2009, the trend is even more visible.

According to senior planner Troy Alan Doss, of the city's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability:

• The River District continues to increase in the total number of births with 66 in 2009, which accounts for about a third of all Central City births.  In 2000, the River District accounted for just 9 percent of all city births.

• The westside of the Central City continues to outpace the eastside in birth rates, with 119 for the west and 60 for the east. Most of the eastside's 60 births were outside the Central City, he says.

So what does it all mean?

Says Doss: 'Who really knows, except that people who live in the Central City are at least starting families and more of them are doing this every year.'

He says the city needs to get the 2010 U.S. Census data to estimate how many choose to stay in the Central City, 'but recent data from the Housing Bureau that counted the number of children living in affordable units in the Central City suggests many more children are here than we would have guessed.'

He adds: 'All this means more family supported services (schools, parks, daycare, etc), amenities (retail), and housing (2-plus bedroom units) are not only justified but are necessary.'

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