Barring a resurgence in the coronavirus that would cause a quarantine, all Westbrook students can expect to return to a full-time, in-person schedule this fall, Superintendent Peter Lancia said this week.

Schools will likely allow visitors again along with volunteers for school programs, and fall athletics will make a full return as well.

“We’ve added some additional teachers and classes to keep classes smaller and help academics, but it also allows us to keep students distanced,” Lancia said.

All the schools will continue to be cleaned and sanitized daily, he said.

Mask mandates are still up in the air for the fall.

“A lot will depend on the availability of vaccinations and what the rate is looking like as we get to the start of school,” Lancia said. “We are looking at how we will manage our summer programs as well and what our rules will be around masks, but we hope we can not have them. We will wait and see though, especially for younger kids, to see if they’d be required.”

COVID-19 vaccines are not available yet for children under age 12. More than 150 older students were vaccinated at two school clinics, Lancia said.

“We have not polled or required teachers to tell us if they’ve been vaccinated, but anecdotally, the vaccination rate seems high with the adults in our schools,” he said.

Programs will be developed to help students who might have slipped behind during the hybrid learning model used over the past year, although Lancia said end-of-year test scores are on par with previous years.

“Reading scores are on par with a typical end of year, though (with a) 1 percentage point difference, with higher scores at kindergarten and first grade in particular,” Lancia said. “Math was lower than a typical year by 6 points, and we will work to address these gaps. High school math was consistent from past years, though.”

Detailed results of the recent end-of-year-assessments are not public yet, Lancia said.

Fall assessments will provide additional information about students’ academic needs, he said.

Social and emotional needs in light of the pandemic will also be addressed.

“We are working on some transition programs, acknowledging mental health,” Lancia said. “First days of school will be staggered with only certain grades so they can start to get used to being back with the whole class.”

The school department is also working on hiring additional social workers for the middle school, he said. 

“At other schools, we’ve optimized schedules, we have people ready to pay close attention to mental health and social and emotional needs,” he said.

Some aspects of pandemic life may stick around, such as the use of Google Classroom and a one student-one computer ratio. Those tools may be used for homework and additional content, like videos from teachers, but may also come in handy over snow days, Lancia said.

Free meals will also continue for all students, which Nutrition Director Mary Emerson said have been extended for the 2021-2022 school year.

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