Lewiston School Committee meeting

March 7, Dingley Building

Student testing

What happened: The committee voted 6-2 to direct Superintendent Bill Webster to include an opt-out form on a letter to parents.

What it means: Administering the new Maine Educational Assessment will start the week of March 21. Last year, the Smarter Balanced test, which was called confusing and unfair, caused a number of parents to opt out. The test was later junked by state lawmakers. Meanwhile, parents pushed for clearer/easier ways of informing other parents that they can say they don’t want their student taking the test. The new form will make opting out easier.

The problem: The state mandates 95 percent of students take the test. If fewer than that do, the School Department will have to come up with a “corrective action plan” to demonstrate to the state and federal governments where Lewiston students are academically.

Webster is concerned some parents may fill out the form unaware of the consequences. He’s encouraging parents not to opt out. “They will see information on their student; it will be included in school data and keep us in compliance with federal law,” he said. 

Early-release Wednesdays

What happened: The committee approved early-release Wednesdays for 2016-17 to give teachers time for professional development, including implementing the new proficiency-based learning model mandated by the state.

What it means: Students will be released at 1 p.m. one Wednesday per month in September, October, November, January, February, March, April, May and June. Buses will take students home.

What’s next: Webster is working on a school calendar that lists the early-release Wednesdays. “I expect to have it done this week.”

New athletic field

What happened: The School Committee voted 6-2 to spend $50,000 for a protective barrier in the artificial turf of the new football/soccer/lacrosse field.

The existing field would be replaced if a new elementary school is built near the high school at Franklin Pasture. The $50,000 came from Franklin Pasture fundraising; the rest of the field would be paid for by the state, if the new school is approved by voters.

What it means: The barrier will create an extra coating between the material in the field – crushed tires – and players to ensure safety. The artificial turf would allow the field to be used by more than varsity players; freshmen and junior varsity players would use it, too. The existing field cannot handle the traffic.

What’s next: The artificial turf field will only be built if the new elementary school is approved by voters in June. More information about the new school will be released March 14.

— Bonnie Washuk

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