Regional School Unit 21 Superintendent Terri Cooper recently talked to the school board about summer school schedules and spoke of her commitment to five-day in-classroom instruction in the fall. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK – Plans for summer school for all grade levels are being finalized, and Regional School Unit 21 is looking to implement a full, in classroom five-day a week district-wide fall schedule.

That was the word from Superintendent Terri Cooper at a recent RSU 21 School Board meeting.

Cooper said while some districts have adopted different schedules and  others are in step with RSU 21’s policy, she said she continues to believe continuing the hybrid model until the end of this school year is the right decision for the district.

Currently, students attending RSU 21 on the hybrid model are in school two days each week and learning remotely for three days.

“We are doing in what is in the best interests of RSU 21,” said Cooper. “The goal for fall 2021 is to have five days of instruction. A group of administrators at the building and central office level are working diligently to put these plans in place.”

Cooper also updated the school board on the number of students in quarantine – as of March 10, there were 43 students and eight staff quarantining because of close contact with someone who tested positive with coronavirus. As of March 12 and extending back to the beginning of the coronavirus count in 2020, RSU 21 has had a total of 62 students and 15 staff members test positive.

Summer school dates and start times have been set. Elementary school classes will be 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Thursday, July 6 through Aug. 5. The middle school summer schedule will be 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. June 21 to July 22. Kennebunk High School will have a remote session June 21 to July 1 and in class session July 6 through July 22.

This marks the first-time summer school to be offered district-wide, though there have been summer classes in past years designed for students who receive special services.

One parent spoke up about the 7:30 a.m. schedule for middle school students.

“It’s disappointing we’re not doing a healthy start time,” said Jennifer Lyons.

Board member Dawn Therrien asked who would be eligible to attend summer school.

Cooper said principals are working with teachers to identify students experiencing learning regression. She noted that summer school is not mandatory, indicating the list might include others, depending on whether parents agree to send their children to a summer session.

The number of students who can be accepted also depends on the availability of staff.

Cooper said if a large number of teachers and education technicians express interest, and some retired educators are also willing to step into the summer role, more students could be included. Teachers are being surveyed to gauge interest.

She said an invitation will go out to parents about summer school on April 8.

As to the fall, Cooper said the district is examining the projected number of teachers in the proposed budget, grade level enrollments, class sizes, space needs, classroom capacities and DOE guidelines, the number of additional spaces required, and a host of other factors.

“This is extremely important to me, we are working relentlessly to do exactly what I said we would do,” said Cooper. “We want to make sure our students have five days of instruction and that is our goal, and we will keep you updated.”

School board member Louis Braxton said he was pleased that the superintendent is committed to five days a week in the fall, but also expressed concern about an increase in numbers of positive coronavirus tests and those in isolation, and wondered if there was enough money in the budget to cover expenses.

Mary Fossett, a 9-year-old student, joined the online meeting briefly to address the school board.

“It is very important for me to go back to school,” she said. “I hope you can find a way to make it five days in the fall.”

During the meeting, Cooper said she appreciates the emails, recommendations and suggestions she’d received.

“When I say to you, we are working on this, I want you to believe me,” said Cooper. “We want all of our students back in school.”

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