Students in Arundel, Kennebunk and at Consolidated School in Kennebunkport will continue the hybrid learning program through the end of the school year, Superintendent Terri Cooper announced. Tammy Wells Photo

KENNEBUNK – Regional School Unit 21 will continue to operate under the hybrid/full remote learning model until the conclusion of the school year. The decision was made to maintain safety and consistency, Superintendent of Schools Terri Cooper announced on Friday, Feb. 26.

“We are not where we want to be. We all want our students back in our school buildings, our teachers in classrooms, our buses running, our cafeterias open for meals and our sports teams and extra-curricular activities operating on a normal schedule,” said Cooper in a news release. “The reality is this: there is no simple solution to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus will be here for a while. To serve our children means that we must find our way through it as we cannot go around it.

“Finding our way through it starts with acknowledging that safety of students and staff will always be the district’s number one priority. We will ensure the continuance of safe measures to limit student and staff risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

In general terms, a student attending RSU 21 on the hybrid model is in school two days each week and learning and working remotely the remaining three days. A student is assigned to attend in person classes either Mondays and Tuesdays or Thursdays and Fridays. No students attend in person classes on Wednesdays.

Cooper noted that the first six months of the school year have brought expected and unexpected challenges to families, students and staff.

“I would like to acknowledge that our RSU 21 staff members have risen to the challenge of hybrid and remote instruction despite a multitude of obstacles that were not attributed to the district,” said Cooper. “After working with all staff to create an environment where students can learn and grow, our teachers and administrators have provided students with quality work and social-emotional engagement.”

She said she knows RSU 21 families have adjusted their day-to-day schedules to support children participating in the full remote or hybrid models.

“I understand the impact our structure has had on you and applaud your ability to navigate through the new normal,” she said in the release. ” It is no secret that a heavy load has been placed upon your shoulders. You have made many sacrifices and worked collaboratively with us to ensure our students are safe, loved and provided a sound education. I am grateful for your commitment.”

Reaction on social media ranged from dismay to support for the decision. One parent said their child’s education this year “is a flop.” Another said other districts have found ways to offer more in-school learning. Others said changing now would be a mistake. “I’m not eager for another mid-year upheaval,” one parent said.

Cooper said she is working with the district’s administrative team to provide summer school opportunities and increase days during the fall for students.

“I understand the inconvenience this decision has on our families, but I firmly stand in stating that this is the best decision for RSU 21,” Cooper wrote.

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