Not a typical summer school: Waterville has fun, social activities, and academics


Matt Gilley sits in his 1972 Chrysler Newport outside Waterville Senior High School last week. Gilley will be teaching students to swap out parts of the classic car and, when it’s time, replace the interior as part of the comprehensive summer school program offered this year by Waterville Public Schools. Michael G. Seamans / Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE – You may not think that classic car restoration is offered as a summer school course, but that is exactly what instructor Matt Gilley will soon be teaching as part of the Waterville Public Schools summer program.

Students will help Gilley disassemble the front end of his 1972 Chrysler Newport, replace parts, and when the time comes, pull out and replace the interior of the car.

“Whatever time allows, we’ll get into it and begin,” said Gilley on Thursday.

It was a project Gilley, an instructor from Jobs for Maine’s Graduates (JMG), had planned this summer anyway, so he suggested it as a summer school course for students. Some students at the Mid-Maine Technical Center are already familiar with the car after reworking the suspension and brakes and installing a new radiator as part of a school program.

“I know there are children who are interested, especially since the afternoon summer program is open to Messalonskee students,” said Gilley. “I just thought that would be a good fit.”

Gilley’s Classic Car Restoration Course is just one of many fun activities the school system is offering as part of its summer program to address students’ socio-emotional needs that were not met during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to academic courses that focus on math and reading skills, there are also cooking, model rocket building, crime scene processing, photography, summer camp and many other courses on the program.

Headmaster Eric Haley is encouraging students to sign up for the program, which is possible because of the federal COVID-19 aid money that the school system has received.

Enrollment is easier than educators hoped, probably because students see summer school more as a place to go when they fail a class or have to repeat courses, Haley said. The summer school timetable and the course descriptions are available on the school system’s website at

“It’s not like that at all,” he said. “I can’t believe the skills some of my teachers have that I had no idea would be interested in.”

Gilley is also working with high school band teacher Sue Barre to offer a modern rock band class where on the last day of the class students play instruments, select a song, and perform for the public at the new outdoor bandstand outside of the class Technology center. Gilley is a guitarist.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said, “and some of the students I have in class who share this interest are pretty excited too.”

Waterville Senior High School students in grades 9 through 12 will be offered enrichment remediation programs Monday through Thursday during the weeks of July 12, 19, and 26, according to Principal Brian Laramee. The morning program is called Waterville PEP or Panther Enrichment Project. All programs are free, food and transportation are provided free of charge to students.

The entire range is designed for sparks Creativity and exposing students to programs or activities that they might not otherwise be exposed to in normal classrooms, Laramee wrote in a letter to families. The hope is that the program will help students reconnect with their peers and members of the school staff.

“Waterville PEP is a far cry from the traditional ‘summer school’, ”wrote Laramee. “As you can see from the many sessions on offer, many of the sessions take place outside of the classroom.”

Courses offered July 12-15 include courses related to robot building, creative writing, credit recovery, crime scene editing, electrical control, fitness, percussion instruments, math in games, Waterville history, homemade pasta making, money matters, reading skills, and precision Instruments and lathes, art and table games.

Courses for July 19-22 include Beginning of the Band, Cooking Around the World, Creative Writing, Loan Recovery, Electrical Control, Fitness, GoPro Filmmaking, Photography and Photoshop, Reading Skills, Art, and more.

From July 26-30, courses include tape beginnings, creative writing, credit recovery, fitness, GoPro filmmaking, Waterville history, math in games, marine health, art, and model rockets.

A week-long overnight River Rats Adventure Camp is also offered.

The administrators of Laramee, Haley, and Regional School Unit 18 are working on afternoon programs with Tom Edwards and Ed Cervone of Thomas College. Craig Larrabee, CEO of Jobs for Maine’s Graduates; Ken Walsh, CEO of the Alfond Youth & Community Center; Patrick Guerette, Chief Operating Officer of the Alfond Center; and others according to Laramee.

Afternoon offerings are the result of efforts to provide post-school opportunities for students in grades 6 through 12. Programs include free lifeguard certification, training counselors, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and babysitting – all designed to provide students with employable skills.

Students taking the courses are entitled to paid work. The Alfond Center offers intramural activities, free access to the fitness center, and many other activities. Thomas College offers free college courses, access to esports tournaments and career fairs, and JMG is planning a variety of activities in and around Waterville and Oakland.

Special lessons are scheduled for high schools and junior high schools on July 12-15, July 19-22, and July 26-29. The programs focus on academic and functional skills and use hands-on activities. Weekly swimming activities are on the program. Activities at the Pine Tree Camp in Rome are available for all grade levels.

Title I students will be offered learning camps on Tuesdays and Thursdays for six weeks starting June 22nd. Reading, writing and math through integrated, hands-on learning are part of academics and afternoon enrichment sessions are offered at Day Camp Tracy or Alfond’s center.

The program registration is complete, so that, according to the organizer, no additional pupils can be accepted for pupils in the kindergarten until the fifth grade. Students will take courses that focus on story retelling, language, math, detective learning, gardening, photography, space exploration, art, and history. Students can also participate in activities at Day Camp Tracy and participate in an enrichment program at the Alfond Center.

Students in grades 6 to 8 meet Monday through Thursday for four weeks, starting July 5 through the week of July 28. You will have the opportunity to explore the great outdoors, take advantage of multiple indoor resources, explore hiking trails, and experience other adventure-related activities.

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