Auburn backs away from half-day Wednesdays, tables item


AUBURN — After 90 minutes of parents telling school officials that releasing K-12 students from school early 13 times next year is too much, that it would hurt children and families, the Auburn School Committee voted unanimously to table the controversial topic Wednesday night.

Committee members agreed to hold future workshops on how to provide teachers with more professional development and to involve input from parents.

School Committee member Brent Bilodeau said he heard one proposal from a small committee of teachers and administrators recommending 13 half-day Wednesdays next year.

“I would really like to see us go back and workshop it,” publicize the schedule and come up with a couple of new proposals. “Then do a public forum to get feedback.”

Teachers need more time for professional development, “but at this time I would feel comfortable voting on the calendar.”

Committee member Heidi Lachapelle said if the proposal were tabled, would any proposal — late start or releasing students early — be acceptable to the community?


Bilodeau said the committee could come up with three or four proposals, get feedback and decide on which one would work the best for most people, and that he has a real issue with teenagers being unsupervised if released at 11:30 a.m.

Committee members Tammy Nelson, Daniel Poisson, Faith Fontaine and Jim Pross agreed. Maybe a shorter length of time that students are released from school would be better, Poisson said.

Pross said the committee that was assembled that recommended half-day Wednesdays for grades K-12 met during working hours which meant working families couldn’t participate.

When parents spoke against the proposal, including health professionals Pam Albert and Barbara Howaniec, several talked about how so many unsupervised hours could be dangerous to teenagers.

Howaniec said she works with people recovering from heroin addiction, that drug use often starts between the ages of 12 and 14. “This proposal scares the life out of me,” she said.

Pross said he’d like research on suicide rates and drug use and unsupervised time from the CDC.

And, Pross said, this year the city is up against a challenging budget that needs support from the community. “So why are we going to take this major issue and force it down the throats of the public” before the budget is decided. Finding time for professional development can be decided later, he said.

Fontaine said a balance needs to be struck for meeting the needs of teachers and students and families. She thanked parents for coming out and speaking.

“I’m proud of all of us that we listened,” she said while making a motion to table the issue.

Amy Hesby speaks during Wednesday’s Auburn School Committee meeting at Auburn Hall. Hesby has two children in the Auburn school system and is not convinced that allowing students in grades 7-12 to have early release on 13 Wednesdays is the best way for teachers to gain professional development. 

Auburn Middle School Principal Celena Ranger, left, AMS math teacher Jim Carmichael, Edward Little High School Principal Scott Annear and ELHS Assistant Principal Sarah DeLuca listen during Wednesday’s Auburn School Committee meeting. Ranger, Carmichael, Annear and DeLuca made a presentation on the benefits of having 13 early-release Wednesdays for students in grades 7-12. 

Pam Hart speaks during Wednesday’s Auburn School Committee meeting at Auburn Hall. Hart said she is not in favor of allowing students in grades 7-12 to have early release on 13 Wednesdays.

Auburn teacher Rebecca Skilling tells the Auburn School Committee that early-release Wednesdays at the elementary school level have been a great way for teachers to gain professional development.