4 ways a Maine district is charting its post-COVID course

'We’re not looking to recreate what we had in March 2020. We’re looking forward.'
By: | April 19, 2021
(AdobeStock)

“Charting the Course” is the name of the task force that Superintendent Peter Lancia has formed to develop a vision for COVID recovery in the Westbrook School Department.

That includes determining how the Maine district will spend stimulus funds to best support students and staff as more of them return to the classroom full-time after a year of hybrid learning.

“We’re looking at ways to move education into the next generation,” Lancia says. “We’re not looking to recreate what we had in March 2020. We’re looking forward.’

Here are some key steps in the district’s vision for the coming months:

1. Summer schools. To begin to make up lost ground, the district will hold in-person summer academies for multiple grade levels, including high school credit recovery focused on graduation.

A key goal of the academies is to help students re-acclimate to a more normal, in-person schedule.

2. Smaller classes. Lancia intends to use some stimulus funds to add temporary staff to reduce class sizes in 2021-22.

‘This will also allow teachers to better target instruction to individual students’ needs, Lancia says.

3. Next-generation learning. The Charting the Course task is also beginning to reimagine teaching and learning, including how educators can better connect with families, Lancia says.

One initiative will be using data more aggressively to inform the next steps in instruction and drill down into the skills each learner needs, Lancia says.

This will prevent educators from lumping students together simply because they are English-leaners.

4. Tech upgrades. Earlier stimulus funding allowed to the district to finally become 1-to-1 in all grades.

This, in turn, has motivated Westbrook’s educators to develop their teaching-with-tech skills beyond simply assigning online assignments.

‘Multi-year perspective’

COVID recovery won’t be a short-term project in Westbrook or any other districts across the country, Lancia says.

In the past year, Westbrook’s educators have been focused on learning essentials, an effort that should continue into 2021-22.

“This isn’t going to be flip the switch where everyone comes back to school and we start all over,” Lancia says. “This will be more than a quick fix. We’re looking at this from a multi-year perspective.”