Westbrook High School junior Keegan Watts buffs up a Toyota tailgate at Portland Arts and Technology High School as part of his auto collision class. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

WESTBROOK — Scheduling conflicts and applying career and technical education classes toward graduation requirements can be a roadblock for students taking classes at the Westbrook Regional Vocation Center and Portland Arts and Technology High School. Four public forums planned for this spring will address making changes to mitigate those problems.

Windham High School student Baxter Chavonelle troubleshoots a computer last week at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

In addition to making it easier to take classes at both WRVC or PATHS and the high schools, the forums will discuss broadening career and technology offerings to include coding/robotics and civics and community engagement, for example; and a better alignment of vocational/technical credits with graduation requirements.

The topics come from 987 responses to an online survey of parents, students, staff and residents organized by the Gorham School Department. The survey asked respondents what opportunities they would like to see offered at the schools in the future and what improvements could be made along the way.

“There was nothing in the results that surprised me,” PATHS Director Kevin Stilphen said. “As a career and technical education instructor, these issues have been there for years. It is long overdue.”

WRVC Director Todd Fields said many of his students find it difficult to take classes both at the vocational center and their high school due to scheduling conflicts.

“There are core classes I am missing that I will have to take next year with the class below me,” said Riley Johnson, a junior from Gorham who is a part of the medical occupations class at WRVC, which offers 15 programs to students at Gorham, Westbrook, Scarborough, Bonny Eagle and Windham high schools.

Madi Tryon, a junior from Gorham, wants to take anatomy and physiology classes at the high school next year but only if they doesn’t conflict with her medical occupations class at WRVC.

Kennedy Libby, left and Riley Johnson take Noelle Lewis’ vital signs during a medical occupations course at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

“Sometimes it can be difficult to balance class here with our core class workload,” she said.

Portland High School senior Katie Romano, a student in PATHS’ auto collision program, also has experienced scheduling conflicts. She said she hasn’t been able to take courses she wanted, such as Life after Portland High School or art classes, because she was enrolled in the auto collision course. Plus, she said, she has to leave her second period class 20 minutes early to get the PATHS.

Stilphen said some students who have loved their PATHS programs had to stop attending them to focus on graduation requirements at their high schools.

How credits from classes at PATHS and WRVC are applied to sending school’lls graduation requirements also differs. The two-year medical occupations course at WRVC, for example, counts as an elective in Gorham, but an elective and part of an English credit for Bonny Eagle students.

Survey respondents said they would like to see more apprenticeships, internships and hands-on/real-world learning opportunities offered at WRVC and PATHS.

Whitney Poitras, a junior at Westbrook, said the medical occupations course at WRVC has allowed her to explore a career in nursing. For fellow Westbrook High junior Keegan Watts, a course at PATHS has given him a leg up in a field he would like to pursue after high school.

“The way I was brought up, I was always around cars, so I thought working on them in this class would be a good thing for me to get into,” said Watts, a student in the auto collision course at PATHS, which offers 18 disciplines to students from more than a dozen school districts.

Survey respondents indicated they would like to see schools offer instruction in disciplines such as coding/robotics, civics and community engagement, financial literacy, graphic arts/architecture and music production, and they wanted WRVC and PATHS to continued the focus on cyber security, electrical/plumbing and welding and construction.

Watts said both schools do a good job offering a wide variety of interesting coursework.

“Between both schools, there are plenty of opportunities to do what you want to do,” he said.

Gorham Superintendent Heather Perry said the survey results will be shared and discussed at four upcoming forums, set for March 12 and March 18 at WRVC and March 19 and April 6 at PATHS.

“At these forums we will share some information with the public in attendance, including summary results of the (survey) and then ask those present at table level discussions to ‘dig deeper’ into the thoughts and ideas and begin to ferret out specific goals/objectives that we need to address,” Perry said.

In May or June, Perry said, the career and technical education advisory committees will take the information from the forums as well as other input “to create action steps and a new vision for how we want our programs to operate moving forward.”

Any program changes or addition would need approval by the Department of Education’s Career and Technical Education team to make sure they meet industry standards and student interest, said Director Dwight Littlefield.

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