AUBURN — Officials will present two major school consolidation plans to the public Wednesday night, Superintendent Katy Grondin said Monday.
One plan, which would retain neighborhood schools, would close the East Auburn Community School and Washburn Elementary, turn the Walton Elementary School into space for alternative programs, adult education, special education and administrative offices. Edward Little High School would get a major renovation. The Auburn Middle School would be expanded to hold sixth-graders, and a fourth prekindergarten school would be built.
The other plan would build a mega campus for all 3,600 prekindergarten to grade 12 students. It would mean finding a location, constructing buildings over the next 15 years, and closing most of Auburn's school buildings.
Either would cost millions of dollars, and could not happen without citizen approval.
The School Committee hired a consultant months ago to help the Auburn Master Facilities Committee, which has been meeting weekly, come up with the best uses and futures of Auburn school buildings.
The two plans, the neighborhood versus the comprehensive campus, had the most support from the committee, Grondin said. Committee members now want to know what Auburn residents think about the two plans before sharing their final recommendations with the School Committee next month.
When asked why the city would need to close East Auburn and Washburn schools, Grondin said both are old, small and don't meet students' needs. Neither have a gym separate from the cafeteria, appropriate art and music rooms, or enough room for pre-K, the superintendent said.
“We want to make sure every school has equality in facilities. It's a big thing for the committee to make sure the schools are equally diverse in social economics, so that one school doesn't have a 36 percent population of free and reduced lunch and another school has a 70 percent population.”
Under this plan, Auburn schools would still maintain neighborhood feelings, but schools would be consolidating, Grondin said. Keeper schools would be Sherwood Heights, Fairview and Park Avenue. A fourth prekindergarten to grade five school would be built.
Edward Little High School “would not be all new,” only getting what it needs, including an auditorium, a cafeteria, a media and science wing, Grondin said.
The Auburn Middle School would be expanded allowing room to make it a grades six to eight school. That, Grondin said, would improve the delivery of education, saying with the existing seventh- and eighth-graders everyone is coming and going.
In the comprehensive campus design, “it would mean all education would be on one site,” Grondin said. Other communities, including Falmouth and Cumberland, are moving toward comprehensive campus designs, she said.
There is room at the middle school to build such a campus, because land is available, Grondin said. With a comprehensive campus “the possibilities are endless.”
“You could have older students working with younger students. You could have a mini-farm on the site, athletic fields all at one site.” If that plan were approved, the first new school built would be a new high school. Then other buildings could be added, creating the mega campus in stages. Park Avenue Elementary, a new school, would continued to be used as it is. “It's in walking distance,” Grondin said.
A comprehensive campus would help Auburn provide more customized learning to students, and help Auburn attract state funding, Grondin said. “Any time you have a plan that's progressive, that supports opportunity for funding,” she said. Last year the high school was 16th on the state funding for construction list. “We've moved up,” Grondin said.
Projected costs for either future plan are not available.
“This is all very preliminary. This is why we want public feedback,” Grondin said. “Are people excited about a comprehensive campus?” Would people prefer the neighborhood plan, or the status quo? she asked.
The public hearing will be from 6 to 8 p.m. In the Auburn Hall in the City Council chambers.
The Auburn Master Facilities Committee will listen to comments from the public, discuss the feedback at the next meeting Nov. 17 before giving its final recommendations to the School Committee on Dec. 7.