WESTBROOK — The Westbrook School Department has big things planned for the adult education program this year with a focus on offering programs that are “responsive to the folks here.”
A new certified nursing assistant program is being offered this month, and there are plans to begin a commercial truck driving certification and possibly culinary arts later in the year, said Westbrook Adult Education Director Kate Rotroff.
The course expansion is made possible through a $166,000 Fund for the Efficient Delivery of Education Services grant the department received earlier this school year for career and technical education courses.
“That gives us a lot of options,” said Rotroff, who is in her second year leading the program.
Rotroff joined the Westbrook School Department in 2017 through an arrangement with Gorham Adult Education to share a director but otherwise operate independent programs.
Westbrook Adult Education enrollment has risen from 63 in the 2016-2017 school year and 84 in 2017-2018 to 88 so far this school year. Classes are held in several locations, including Westbrook Community Center on Bridge Street (English language classes) and Westbrook High School (testing, advising, math and language arts).
The focus of Westbrook’s grant, Rotroff said, is offerings that meet the “highest need in the area,” which include courses in health care, finances, truck driving, advanced manufacturing and technology.
Superintendent Peter Lancia said “we are launching programs through adult ed that are responsive to the folks here.”
The certified nursing program is set to kick off Jan. 14. Rotroff hopes to set up a truck driving course at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center by spring.
“There really are very few places where you can get a CDL license to be able to drive the big trucks, but Westbrook has the facilities to do it,” Rotroff said.
Westbrook Assistant Superintendent Jodi Mezzanotte said training people in commercial driving is important because most school departments, Westbrook included, are in need of bus drivers, which require a commercial drivers’ license.
The roadblock in offering the commercial truck driving certification, she said, is finding an instructor. An individual to offer that class will be trained over the February school vacation through a train the trainer initiative.
Rotroff said she is also working on a partnership with Sodexo, the food supplier at the University of Southern Maine and the University of New England, on a culinary arts course. Courses on technology, medical assistant and office skills are also in the works.
“The goal of all these programs is you can come away with skills and some sort of certificate,” Rotroff said.
There may be a time, Rotroff said, when Westbrook Adult Education can expand and offer enrichment courses, but not now.
“We want to listen to the community and provide what the community is needing and asking for. We do get calls, but it needs to be part of a bigger conversation because we don’t want to compete with the (community services) department,” Mezzanotte said. “What is our niche and what is there niche?”
For more information on adult education, to sign up for classes or volunteer to help in the classrooms, call 854-0826 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit westbrook.maineadulted.org.
Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or email@example.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews