A proposal by the Auburn School Department for early-release Wednesdays for middle- and high-schoolers sounds quite a lot like its proposal for late-start Wednesdays, pitched and quickly folded in 2012.

Five years ago, Superintendent Katy Grondin said the department is “committed to raising student achievement by increasing teacher effectiveness in order for all students to be career and college ready when they graduate from Edward Little High School.” Her idea for increasing teacher effectiveness was to use late-start Wednesdays to give staff extra time for training.

Today, with the early-release proposal, the goal remains the same: to give teachers time for professional development, to incorporate new mandates and ways of teaching that will help students.

Here’s the thing: In order to do this, students will lose 13 afternoons  — some would say 13 days —  in the classroom.

Parents didn’t like the plan in 2012 and are opposed to the one now.

One obvious reason is timing.

One of the chief complaints in 2012 was that the Auburn School Department revealed the idea of late-start Wednesdays quite suddenly, with very little explanation to the community. The backlash was immediate.

The same thing appears to have happened again, with many parents unaware of the details of the new plan even as the School Committee is scheduled to vote on it tonight.

Do Auburn teachers need more time for training, to learn and share new techniques?

They do, and there is plenty of evidence to support effective training results in better teaching.

Do Auburn students need as much time in the classroom as possible?

Absolutely.

These two needs are not at cross-purposes.

And parents deserve a full say in how the school department fulfills both needs.

Parents and students — and even some teachers — already say that in the elementary grades, where 11:30 a.m. release on Wednesdays is the norm, those Wednesday morning academic schedules are half-hearted. It’s hard to get motivated for a half-day. Especially when a lunch period is also squeezed in.

But there’s really much more to this.

Parents have legitimate concerns about student supervision, about transportation — particularly since Auburn doesn’t offer busing at the high school — and family schedules.

Then there’s the ability for parents to accept that losing school days will streamline learning.

Here’s an example of something else hard to accept: The proposal would include shortening the time students have to change classes from seven to four minutes — moving three minutes into the classroom between each period.

There’s no question that time would be saved on the clock, but would there truly be a gain in learning? Are students really going to settle down three minutes earlier in each class? And will it actually make a difference?

Remember back to your high school days and think about whether that seems likely.

Adopting the current early-release Wednesday proposal — which calls for more half-days for teacher training than other school districts in Maine — should be a discussion with parents, not a directive to parents.

If there was ever a topic that would benefit from a broad public discussion, this is it. It would give the School Department an opportunity to present evidence that early-release days are effective, and would give parents an opportunity to bring their concerns forward. And, it’s worth looking at those districts that are backing away from early release after years of short Wednesdays because the disruption to student learning and attendance is too great.

Sure, there will be public input at tonight’s meeting, but it’s an item on the School Committee’s business meeting agenda. It’s not a focused forum.

Grondin acknowledged the department’s plan is being considered early for parents to have time to get organized, and if that’s the case there’s no need to rush.

The best thing right now would be for the School Committee to hold off on its vote tonight and, instead, schedule at least one special community meeting to hear all sides.

It could be quite an education.

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