WESTBROOK — School nurses have purchased $10,000 worth of outdoor clothes for students in need.

It’s the first time the Westbrook School Department has budgeted money for student clothing.

In previous years, schools relied on donations of used clothing from churches, nonprofits and residents for students who weren’t equipped for the winter weather and for students who might have forgotten to bring their snow pants for recess, for example. With the pandemic, however, the schools decided not to accept donated recycled clothing and budgeted to buy them instead.

Over 85 complete winter sets including snow pants, hats, gloves and boots, and over 100 individual jackets were purchased. The money came from the department’s contingency fund of about $50,000, set aside for unexpected expenses.

“Some of our kids and families are for their first time in Maine or in a cold climate,” Superintendent Peter Lancia said. “We want kids outside every day during the pandemic, so this is really in line with that.”

The school nurses will distribute the clothing to the students who need them.

“Sometimes (bus) drivers call into the schools if they see a kid just in a sweatshirt and set it up so the nurse can get them a jacket,” Lancia said. “We are always taking this seriously, always keeping an eye on kids and how they are doing physically.”

Sometimes parents ask for help as well, said Canal School nurse Ann Brown.

“Thursday alone I gave three sets of snow pants, two jackets and five sets of gloves,” Brown said last week. “Now that we have more snow and it’s getting colder, parents are recognizing they can’t find an item, can’t get out shopping or can’t afford it.”

All Westbrook schools have students who could use warmer clothing.

At the middle school and high school, Brown said, students can “just grab” what they need after school.

“I would say for Canal there is about 20-25 kids a year I identify out of this 200-person school. There is definitely a need,” Brown said.

Students, who have to wear masks all day inside, are appreciating outdoor time more and the schools are encouraging it, she said. If students don’t have adequate clothing to play outside they miss out.

“Emotionally, it means a lot to them if they can play with the other students,” Brown said. “They want to be involved, be outside, be active, especially at school. Often their socialization is limited at home, so it’s big for them to have that free time this year.”

“It’s a great program to have, we are fortunate to offer it this year and I hope that we can continue this,” she said.

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