AUBURN — The School Committee will vote July 11 on whether to start school late every Wednesday for grades 7-12.
If the committee approves the request from Superintendent Katy Grondin, Auburn Middle School and Edward Little High School would start school every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., instead of 7:30 a.m.
The two hours each week are needed for professional development to help teachers learn new ways of individualizing student learning, the committee was told Wednesday night.
In April, the plan was to consider late arrival for grades 7-12 once a month on Wednesdays.
When Grondin discussed the plan with principals, they said late arrival one Wednesday a month would be confusing for parents, Grondin said. They asked why their schools weren't "going the same route as the elementary schools,” which have half days every Wednesday, Grondin said.
She said they had a point. "I was going to ease us into it. They said, 'We've got so much work to do.'” Once a month wouldn't be enough time for professional development.
Starting school two hours late every Wednesday would allow professional development without extra costs, Grondin said. If the teacher training were held after school, that would lengthen teachers' day and the costs, Grondin said. On late-arrival days, the elementary buses would run first, followed by bus runs for grades 7-12.
As proposed, the regular number of classes would be held throughout the day, but the classes would be shortened, Grondin said. Students would lose two hours a week of classroom time but would get better instruction, she said.
In Mass Customized Learning, students take more ownership of their schooling and teachers become more like facilitators. Instruction is tailored to each student's needs and interests, with more focus on technology.
Teachers need time to develop new kinds of teaching if that method is to be implemented, educators said.
"We need to look at what we're doing,” said Judy Gowell-Gosselin, an Auburn Middle School social studies teacher. “This is really, really important stuff. For you to give us that time is going to be a chance for our kids to do the best learning we want them to do. That's what it's all about.”
Committee member William Horton asked about parents who have to get to work and are used to their children being at school at 7:30. Having school start two hours later once a week would be a problem for some, Horton said.
Grondin said that if families were given enough notice, they could brainstorm about how to get their students to school, or who would supervise students, if they had to get to work.
She considered letting students in the school building at the normal opening time on Wednesdays. “The problem is, then the staff has to cover,” which would take away from training time.
School Committee member Tracy Levesque asked whether the after-school program, which offers enrichment opportunities for students, could be held before school on late-arrival
Committee Chairman Tom Kendall said there would be some protest, just as Auburn's early release Wednesdays for Grades K-6 “comes back to haunt” the committee every few years with parent opposition.
“We have to deal with it again and again," he said. "I don't think this is going to be much different. We need to have that resolve to stand with this, to believe in it.” Teachers need professional development time together “to adjust to the new Mass Customized Learning so our students can move forward.”