The July fire started in this art room on the third floor of Westbrook High School and is evidenced by the remaining black smudges along the wall beam. Repairs to the room are nearly complete. Chance Viles / American Journal

A state grant and loan, insurance payouts and leftover money from the Saccarappa and Middle School expansions will cover the more than $2.6 million in repairs at Westbrook High School, Superintendent Peter Lancia said this week.

The high school reopened Dec. 1 to students, who had started the school year remotely while work crews addressed water and fire damage from a July fire.

Lancia previously had been concerned the school department would have to ask the city for financial help to pay for the repairs. Although he said Tuesday that invoices are still coming in, it looks like the city may be off the hook.

Funds cover the repair total $2,608,094, including the insurance claim of  $1,287,845, Lancia said. That money will pay for  fire and water damages and restoration, items lost and fire-related expenses, “like remote learning programs and internet connectivity for students who had to be remote.”

It will also pay for safety code upgrades that were necessary when numerous violations were found in the building during an inspection after the fire.

The district has also received a $570,249 Revolving Renovation Grant from the Maine Department of  Education.


“Of that, $294,420 is forgiven and we will be responsible for $$275,829 repaid over 10 years.  This will cover the bulk of Phase II upgrades that are necessary, including new wiring and lighting and other repairs related to code,” he said.

Part of the first floor in still being worked on is walled off from students. Chance Viles / American Journal

Any unfinished work will be covered by $750,000 left over from the middle school and Saccarappa expansion projects, Lancia said.

Work remaining includes replacing the windows in the third-floor art room, the scene of the fire, and finishing touches on the first floor, said high school Co-Principal Wendy Harvey. Construction areas have been cordoned off, she said.

Everyone is “ecstatic to be back” in the building, she said.

“The companies and people that worked with us really made it happen,” Harvey said. “And we had from the beginning promised to work hard to get back.”

Sophomore Cogan O’Neill-Lussier and her mother, Kathleen O’Neill-Lussier, said although teachers did a “great” job this fall keeping classes structured, remote learning this fall was “tough.”


“I felt bad for my daughter, not because of what she was missing academically – the teachers did great this time around remote – but about the socialization you can’t get remotely,” Kathleen O’Neill-Lussier said.

Her daughter said being remote made it feel like she “didn’t exist.”

“I do feel more like a person and I like existing,” she said. “Before I felt like I didn’t really exist. It was a little surreal,” Cogan O’Neill-Lussier said.

Her mother said she remains anxious about the time missed and how colleges may view a period without extracurricular activities. Because of the pandemic, her daughter was remote for freshman year and then remote learning was extended this fall at a time she may have found clubs and activities to be involved with, she said.

“I do worry about transcripts, college,” she said.


New lights have been installed in some hallways at the high school. Chance Viles / American Journal

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