The big yellow buses will roll through Lewiston and Auburn early Wednesday as school reopens for Lewiston’s estimated 5,000 students and Auburn’s 3,500 students.

Lewiston will have 31 buses on the road, plus 19 vehicles for special ed students.

“We transport 2,600 kid every day, twice a day.” Lewiston School Department Transportation Director Butch Pratt said. 

Auburn has 23 buses and transports 2,200 students, Business Manager Jude Cyr said.

Pickup for Auburn students will begin at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday; Lewiston students at 6:45. Lewiston students will be dropped off at school anywhere between 7:25 and 8:25 a.m., Pratt said.

Officials caution motorists to allow more time on the road Wednesday morning.

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“Be aware, be cautious,” Pratt said. “Know when the red lights are flashing and the bar is out, you have to stop. Really pay attention to the school buses.”

Lewiston has three waves of buses. The first picks up high school and middle school students, the second wave is Montello Elementary and the third is for the remaining five elementary schools.

Meanwhile, school buildings in Lewiston-Auburn have gleaming halls and classrooms, ready for the students’ arrival, superintendents said.

“They’re looking beautiful,” Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin said. “The custodians are working very hard to finish up.”

Over the summer, the Auburn Middle School parking lot and Falcon Drive were paved. Walton Elementary got a makeover with new paint in classrooms, bathrooms and halls.

“It looks very nice,” Grondin said.

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Walton also got a new roof and lights.

Edward Little has new classroom furniture and tile, as well as new carpet in the classrooms, library, front lobby area and the hall. Some of the tile and carpet feature the letters “EL” or “ELHS.”

Franklin has a new heating ventilation system, which will provide ventilation and cooler air when it’s warm.

Teachers and principals are eager to welcome back students, Grondin said.

“We’re excited,” she said. “This is the beginning of a new school.”

In Lewiston, a new $5.4 million wing opens Wednesday at McMahon Elementary, where 100 additional students will attend school. A $9.2 million renovation at the Lewiston Middle School is ongoing, and Montello Elementary has a new front entrance that delights Superintendent Bill Webster.

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“It is so friendly to parents and students coming in,” he said. “It’s uplifting.”

The $270,000 project involved raising Montello’s roof and will give the school better security.

“They’re supposed to be finished at 5 p.m. Monday,” Webster said Monday. “People are working like crazy — wiring and painting.”

Overall, Webster said he feels good about the physical condition of Lewiston schools. “We should feel proud. Our schools are in good shape.”

This year, some students in both cities will get iPads instead of computer laptops. Students receiving the iPads are Lewiston seventh- and eighth-graders and Auburn students in grades K-2 and 7-12.

The iPads are in, but most students won’t get them right away as training, policies and procedures need to be worked out, both superintendents said.

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Both school systems have ongoing plans to boost student learning. Lewiston is at the forefront in Maine in terms of improving teacher evaluation, professional growth and student learning, Webster said.

On Monday, he welcomed teachers and administrators to an assembly held at Lewiston High School, where the keynote speaker was Ronald Thorpe, CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in Arlington, Va.

“It felt good having a premiere educator” encourage Lewiston teachers about improving their profession, Webster said.

Auburn will start its third year of mass customized learning.

“All our staff has had customized training and are now implementing customized learning best practices as they learn it,” Grondin said.

Customized learning is where teachers ensure each student is learning and progressing at his or her level, since not all students learn at the same pace, Grondin said.

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