Accreditation: Community invited to Edward Little forum Sunday

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AUBURN — Residents are invited to a presentation about Edward Little High School and the community at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, in the high school gymnasium.

The topic is the school’s reaccreditation process.

On Sunday, the New England Association of Secondary Schools and College’s accreditation team will begin its four-day visit in Auburn to decide whether the school should receive accreditation.

The accreditation is on probation because of the condition of the high school.

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Sunday’s forum and the accreditation are important, Edward Little High School Librarian Patricia Gautier said. “We would like the community to show support and greet the visiting team,” she said. “It’s a big deal.”

Receiving accreditation means the school has a good curriculum, good structure and good classes, said Gautier, one of three co-chairs of a high school steering committee preparing for the review.

Accreditation is important to local economic development and to students applying to colleges, she said.

“If you’re not accredited, it’s a red flag,” Gautier said. “It’s important to the community and the school. We want our school system to be one of the best in the state.”

There will be overviews, information on demographics and a video of the school and community Sunday.

The high school’s steering committee has written self-study reports on the seven standards used to grant accreditation, which are core values, curriculum, instruction, assessment, school culture and leadership, school resources for learning and community resources for learning. The community resources for learning are the judged by tax dollars that provide resources and building facilities for students.

“We do well with our programming, but the building is tired,” Gautier said.

The school only has one science lab for a student population of 946. That raises questions about how can students get the science experience they need “when we only have one science lab,” Gauthier said. A lack of facilities “limits what you can do with kids. That’s where we are.”

The high school was built in the early 1960s on a tight budget. It lacks a proper cafeteria, has no auditorium and lacks insulation and efficient building designs, which means the building is too hot or too cold. It lacks space for programs such as technology, art and music since it was built before those programs were required. The school also lacks space for students and parents to meet with administrators.

State help for a new school, administrators hope, isn’t too far off.

In the past few years, Auburn officials have been debating building a school without state money, since the high school was No. 16 on the state school construction money list. Only a few getting funding each year.

But Auburn taxpayers often said they could not afford the higher taxes that would come if the city had to pay for its school, which would cost $60 million or more.

Maine Commissioner of Education James Rier has recommended Auburn be patient. He said the state is working its way down the list and usually does fund the top 20 projects. He expects Auburn could receive state funding for a new high school within a few years.

Gautier has been paying attention. On the list of 20 projects, the first 13 have letters of commitment from the state on construction money. That should mean Edward Little is now three schools away from getting the green light from the state to proceed with planning.

“We can’t put a time on it, but we expect in a couple of years to get the go-ahead,” Gautier said.

Working with her as co-chairwomen on the high school’s accreditation steering committee are science department head Karen Boucher and librarian Heidi McCurdy.

The accreditation committee will shadow students, read reports, ask questions and meet with community members, teachers and administrators during its four-day visit.

The accreditation decision is expected in the spring.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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