Westbrook High School will start the school year remotely because of extensive water damage from an electrical fire last month, the superintendent said Thursday.

Most students and staff will learn via synchronous online classes while special education and alternative learning programs will be relocated to the Westbrook Community Center for in-person learning, Superintendent Peter Lancia said in a letter to the school community. There is no specific timeline for how long the arrangement will last.

“While this is not the way any of us want to start the school year, it is necessary,” Lancia said. “Fortunately, our amazing faculty, staff and students at WHS have learned how to maximize remote learning. I am confident that the rich learning experiences that are the hallmark of our high school will continue and that all students will thrive.”

The damage stems from a July 25 fire that broke out on the third floor of the high school in the early morning. An investigation revealed the cause was electrical in nature, likely due to the improper use of an extension cord with a window air conditioner, according to the Westbrook Fire Department.

The bulk of the repair work is electrical and includes replacing wires, cables and light fixtures that sustained water damage. The work will take place in the center wings of the building and will have to be completed before the building can be occupied again, Lancia said. With the building closed the work will also be completed more quickly and any remaining code issues can also be corrected.

All other Westbrook schools will open as planned for full-time in-person learning. High school athletics will also move forward as scheduled.

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