AUBURN — Local students will get more in-person instruction beginning Feb. 24 by attending school every other Wednesday.

The School Committee voted 7-1 on Wednesday to approve the change, but many members said the proposal fell short of their expectations.

“I’m disappointed in this plan,” City Council representative Brian Carrier said. “I expected more in-person time. Four hours a week is not what I was hoping for.”

He said he was hoping for four full days a week of in-person instruction. The City Council made such a request weeks ago.

“Kids can play sports together, but they can’t go to school? I’m baffled by that. I see no sense,” Carrier said. “We need to get back to worrying about giving kids their education, what we’re paying for.”

Members Faith Fontaine, Brian Belknap and Vice Chairman David Simpson also said they wanted to see students return to school full time.

“Kids need to be in school,” Belknap said.

He said he could see “mass confusion” among students under the plan. “’Is this my week to go to school?’”

He and Fontaine voted in favor of the proposal but said they hoped to see a plan for more in-person instruction later this month.

Simpson voted against the proposal.

“It’s a baby step,” he said. “Other schools are doing four days. Why can’t we?” He said the plan was a step in the right direction, “but we need to do more.”

He said he voted no because he didn’t believe the change would increase face time with teachers “as much as we think.”

The plan, crafted by the Health and Safety Reentry Steering Committee made up of teachers, administrators, support staff, city staff and health care providers, was presented by Assistant Superintendent Michelle McClellan who heads the steering committee.

She wrote in a memo to the School Committee that Wednesdays would follow the schedule for early-release days, with elementary school pupils dismissed at 1 p.m. and middle and high school students dismissed at noon.

This would give teachers time to prepare for hybrid classes, communicate with families and collaborate with colleagues, McClellan wrote.

She told the committee that high school students would have a full day of classes on the alternate Wednesdays, but no flex period would be available for remedial instruction or other teacher support offered on other in-person days.

She said she understood the committee’s dissatisfaction and would take their comments back to the steering committee, which is set to present a broader reopening plan March 17.

The goal of the committee is to maximize both in-person learning and the health and safety of students and staff, McClellan said.

The plan approved Wednesday requires groups of students divided into two groups for “hybrid” instruction — two days of in-person and three days of remote — to attend in person a third day every other week. It includes students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Simpson wondered how that would affect students on their remote Wednesdays who would no longer have teacher contact that day.

“We’re decreasing teacher time” for them, he said.

He said his vote against the proposal was in part a nod to student representative Abigail Faucher who told the committee she had informally surveyed Edward Little High School students.

“They said they did not want to go to school Wednesdays,” Faucher said. “They’re worried about health concerns and some have to babysit or have jobs outside school.”

She could see both sides of the issue, she said.

“We are already mixing cohorts in sports,” she said. “And some kids (need to be in school) because they have mental, physical or emotional needs.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: