Some Maine Schools Offering Online Learning Programs

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Brewer and Hampden Academy, among others, allow students to continue the blended learning model with in-person and online classes.

MAINE, USA – The new school year is kicking off across the state, and the lessons of the pandemic remain front and center.

Last year, Brewer High School launched a program – Nu Program – that gave its students the option of learning remotely. With its rapid growth, Brewer expands the program to its college, and other schools join in.

The Nu program allows students to work on online courses at their own pace, while having weekly check-ins with the program coordinator, Christopher Moreau.

“We’re doing something that isn’t done everywhere, but it should be,” Moreau said.

Hampden Academy launched a similar program, Corral Program, this school year after working with staff at Brewer who piloted the Nu program.

The Corral program requires students to come twice a week for a seminar class and weekly check-in. Beyond that, a student can individualize their education plan and tailor it to their needs and interests.

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“There is no right path for everyone, and probably realistically there never has been,” said Jennifer Nickerson, director of curriculum at Hampden Academy.

Students can balance in-person and online learning or take all courses online, in addition to two required in-person attendances.

According to Corral program facilitator Kit Rodgers, the program currently has six students enrolled with three in the process of applying.

“We all really want the program to fit those students, not a cookie cutter from another district — to really be geared toward our students and their specific needs,” Rodgers said.

Hampden Academy principal Bill Tracy said the program allows students to tailor their education plan to their needs, but also keeps them connected to Hampden Academy. Students can still participate in extracurricular activities, sports, and school events.

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“I had a relative who contacted me yesterday after you [Rodgers] I sat down with them and said, “I don’t know who thought of this program or how it came about, but thank you, thank you, thank you,” Tracy said.

Tracy said the application for the Corral program must be completed by students, parents, and a chosen teacher to be submitted on a student’s behalf. It requires a grading scale system where they are graded as a learner and three essay questions.

With Brewer’s success last year, Moreau and Brewer School District Director of Education Renita Ward-Downer is working to expand the program to middle school students this school year.

“Our program is for the proverbial square peg, which doesn’t fit in the round hole,” Moreau said.

Program coordinators at both schools said they are seeing students with anxiety or certain health conditions thrive in the remote learning environment.

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“This [online learning] wasn’t for all the kids, but for some kids they really thrived on it,” Ward-Downer said.

With the Nu program growing rapidly, Brewer has hired a new specialist to take over the high school program this year while Moreau focuses on creating a program for students in grades six through eight.

Brewer has about 40 high school and college students enrolled in the Nu program this school year.

Bucksport, Old Town, Orrington and Belfast are also offering similar programs this school year. Ward-Downer said her long-term goal is to collaborate on an online academy for districts in the region.

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Brewer and Hampden Academy have both received Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures (RREV) grants through the Maine Department of Education.

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