AUBURN — Despite parent objections, it appears middle- and high-school students may start two hours late on Wednesdays.

Six of seven Auburn School Committee members said Wednesday that when the board takes a formal vote Oct. 3, they will support weekly late arrival for grades 7-12.

Those who said they’d support it were Larry Pelletier, Chairman Tom Kendall, Laurie Tannenbaum, Francois Bussiere, David Young and Bonnie Hayes. Hayes said she’d support it “reluctantly,” and “wants to see results.”

Member Tracy Levesque did not support it, calling grades K-6 early-dismissal Wednesdays disruptive and “confusing to everyone.” Member William Horton was absent.

As proposed by Superintendent Katy Grondin, the middle and high schools would open at 9:30 a.m., two hours late, on Wednesdays so teachers can be trained for a new student- and technology-centered curriculum called Mass Customized Learning.

Middle school students whose parents have to get to work could go to school at 7:30 on late-start days. They would be offered some kind of enrichment time, help with homework or mentoring, until classes begin at 9:45 a.m. The School Department will ask parents to let them know if their students need to come to school early. The high school, however, would not take students early on Wednesdays.

The controversial late-arrival proposal was tabled July 18 after more than a dozen parents blasted School Committee members for the idea. Parents said their students need more time in school, not less. At that meeting, School Committee members backed off the idea, saying it was important to have community support.

And that’s how Wednesday’s workshop meeting began.

Several members, including Pelletier, Hayes, Bussiere and Tannenbaum, said weekly late arrival wasn’t an option because the community did not support it. Tannenbaum suggested holding late arrival once a month, and revisit it in February.

Hayes said she didn’t support late arrival at all for middle school students. “Middle school students need to be in school,” she said.

Committee members seemed to change their minds after Edward Little High School teacher Candy Gleason and Principal Jim Miller made the case for consistent, weekly time for teachers to have professional development.

Gleason said listening to members say weekly late arrival wasn’t an option made her “want to cry.” A few hours of professional development once a month isn’t enough, she said. “Why bother?”

Teachers are excited to begin teaching in new ways, she said. “But we need to be able to move forward. We need to be able to implement this.” That can’t happen without common planning time, Gleason said.

Hayes asked, “So why can’t you do it after school, at 2:10 p.m., for two hours?”

After school “is not the best, optimum time to be doing creative thinking,” Gleason said.

Hayes said, “I know it’s hard to be creative when you’re tired and it’s 3 in the afternoon, but sometimes it’s hard to continue to do things in the private industry at 3 in the afternoon, and we have to do it.”

Parent Rick Cote told committee members he didn’t support weekly late arrival. During the July public meeting, “I don’t know one who spoke for it,” he said Wednesday evening. 

“I do not think taking away time from students every Wednesday is the way to go,” he said. He suggested that if teachers are so excited about Mass Customized Learning, they could come in for professional development on Saturdays.

But educators said if teachers don’t have time to plan new ways of teaching, to learn from each other, they’ll go right back to doing what they were doing before.

“We need professional development on a consistent basis,” Principal Miller said. “All of the staff needs to get together at a time they can all be there.” Students do need to be in school, Miller said, “but at times you have to stop the manufacturing process. You need to retool, so you can come back stronger.”

The committee will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, in the council chambers at Auburn Hall.

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