Westbrook students can plan on a full return to their classrooms this fall.

Superintendent Peter Lancia said that while the hybrid model used during the pandemic continues to work well, educators are excited to resume all in-person instruction in the 2021-2022 school year, barring any big COVID-19 outbreaks or other unforeseen obstacles.

Although some other school districts, such as Portland and Falmouth, are reopening their schools for more in-person instruction this spring, Lancia said Westbrook schools have had no discussion about moving away from the hybrid schedule during the remainder of this school year.

“We need the requirements to change because we cannot function with the same distancing guidelines as is. I won’t say never, things could change in the next few months, but at this point our plan is to stay the course with the hybrid model,” he said. 

“We want our kids back,” Lancia said. “We know we can’t yet, but how can we make the most of this transition time? We aren’t waiting for the fall to happen, we are now working even harder than before.”

Teachers are working on outreach to help students over the summer with any issues they may have faced during the hybrid model, from falling grades to mental health issues.

In addition to logistical matters such as a safe classroom setup, they also must prepare to combine separate classes and coursework and build up social programs for when the now separate groups of students rejoin each other in the fall.

“We need to ramp up our outreach now. I worry about our kindergartners, some of whom have never been to school, period,” Lancia said. 

Westbrook schools may also team with other schools in the Greater Sebago Education Alliance to offer niche courses, which otherwise would not be held, via remote instruction.

The Greater Sebago Education Alliance consists of the Portland, South Portland, Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth, Gorham, Westbrook, Brunswick, Bonny Eagle, Windham-Raymond and Gray-New Gloucester school districts.

“I think there is a lot of opportunities there for offering unique courses, maybe ones that aren’t offered often with some coordinated effort,” Gray Superintendent Craig King said. “Any student in the alliance could sign up for these.”

King said this could also apply to foreign language courses, and possibly extend to extracurriculars including clubs.

Generally, if a student is interested in a course or specific topic, the school can create a course for it, Lancia said, but only if they have a certain amount of kids willing to participate.

That has a lot of potential and is something we should be pursuing as we move forward towards fall,” King said.

This way, students from numerous schools can participate in a niche class remotely.

“I think we’ve opened the door for virtual learning as part of our regular way of doing business and we can’t go totally backwards,” Lancia said.

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