BREWER, Maine — Last fall, the Brewer School Department introduced a new program to allow students who preferred remote learning to continue doing so. Thanks to additional grant money the department received this week, the department will now be able to expand the program in the coming school year.
Organizers said the funds will be used to hire another teacher for the remote learning program as well as to expand it. This past year the program was offered to students in grades seven through twelve. It will be offered to all students at the middle school starting in the fall.
Savanah Brooks, a 2022 graduate of Brewer High School, said she was grateful to have had this program available to her.
"I personally had a rough start to the year, socially, just with people in general, I was having really bad anxiety about coming in," Brooks said.
Brooks said school has always been difficult for her as someone who would often get picked on, and when the school year started last fall, she would leave school crying almost every day.
"I always kind of thought it was something, oh I'll just deal with it and I'll graduate and I'll be done, but then the pandemic hit and I got introduced to remote learning and I loved it honestly," she added.
Renita Ward-Downer, director of instruction and technology with the Brewer School Dept., said she felt the "Nu Program" would suit the needs of students who felt more comfortable with remote learning on their own time.
Christopher Moreau, a Nu Program specialist, said about 20 students elected to participate in the program this year. Each student taught themselves the coursework through an online platform.
"I, as the instructor, put some timelines on their work but they can self-pace and they can access their education where they're at when they're at it," Moreau said.
Moreau said he had regular check-ins with each student, and most of them elected to take a hybrid combination of in-person and online classes.
"Our students really, really enjoyed that freedom. They had a personal connection with me, I checked in with them on a daily basis as well as did some work with them privately once a week, so there was still that connection," Moreau said.
Brooks said she chose the hybrid learning model as a compromise with her parents to get them to be on board with her decision.
"I'm happy I chose to stay in those classes I think if I didn't I would've regretted it," she said.
Brooks recommends any student interested in online learning join at least one extra-curricular club or team to stay socially involved.
Ward-Downer said they're also working on developing more ways to keep remote students socially engaged in the coming year.
"I think it's the way of the future, I really think that students are gonna want a more customized pathway to their learning," Ward-Downer said.
Ward-Downer added they're also working to help school departments in surrounding towns and cities this summer to develop programs like the Nu Program for students in those communities as well.