Auburn parents polled on snow-day change

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AUBURN — Parents of Auburn students will be polled on whether they want schools to delay the start of classes by one or two hours during snowstorms or cancel classes for the day.

The current practice is to call school off for the entire day, Superintendent Katy Grondin said.

Many neighboring school districts delay the start of school when the weather is expected to improve and public works crews report they could have the roads in decent shape if they had another hour or two. If school were delayed one or two hours, the day would not have to be made up as a snow day, Grondin said.

Auburn schools have been asked by public works and Lewiston School Superintendent Bill Webster to consider a delayed start when conditions allow, Grondin told the Auburn School Committee on Wednesday night.

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When asked for input, committee members seemed lukewarm to a change.

Member Bonnie Hayes said she had concerns about changing the policy, especially for parents who commute out of town to work. Their children might not have a place to go if school is delayed, she said.

Member William Horton said he’d rather err on the side of caution about not holding school if conditions are unsafe, and questioned whether a change should be made in the middle of winter.

Tracey Levesque said it might be easier for parents to miss an hour or two of work than a whole day, but she was concerned about students walking to school in the road because sidewalks weren’t cleared.

Student Representative Annie Gill, an Edward Little High School junior, said she’d rather see school called off the entire day, rather than a delayed start.

She walks to school or gets a ride from her parents. “If there was a delay, I’d be one of those kids walking in the road,” she said. “A snow day would be better.”

Committee member Laurie Tannenbaum said other concerns would be how the high school and middle school would deal with a four-hour day, whether classes would be shorter or some part of the day would be cut.

Committee members said they’d like to decide in a future meeting after getting feedback from the community.

Grondin said parents would be polled via instant messenger and asked to vote yes for a delayed start when the weather permits or to vote no against a delayed start.

If parents vote no, they’ll be asked why.

Lewiston’s school superintendent said the issue was taken up by the Lewiston School Committee last week.

“We had quite a discussion both for and against,” Webster said. “The bottom line was: ‘Let’s hear what happens in Auburn.’”

Half-day Wednesday

In other business, member Tracey Levesque said she’d like to see the subject of  half-day Wednesdays be placed on a future agenda. Levesque said she’d heard complaints about the short student days from community members.

Levesque was referring to Auburn’s practice of holding short days on Wednesdays for elementary students to give teachers time for professional development, a practice that has been unpopular among some parents.

Committee Chairman Tom Kendall said it’s an issue that was recently addressed.

Grondin said a study was done in 2007 that led to keeping half-day Wednesdays. The item will go on a future agenda, per Levesque’s request, Kendall said.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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