AUBURN — Amid aging buildings and a dwindling student population, the School Committee will discuss forming a transition committee at its Wednesday meeting.

This is based on results of a facilities report that will outline recommendations for how to proceed with operations at city schools. Some of those options include closing Walton Elementary School.

Last school year, the School Committee formed a group to look at all school facilities in the city to consider the state of school structures and equipment, along with enrollment and where development is happening in the city, according to Superintendent Cornelia Brown.

The committee partnered with local architects to develop a report and make recommendations on those issues, and some of those findings will be presented at this week’s meeting, according to Brown.

Some community members feel that it is too soon to discuss closing the school and plan to gather outside City Hall before the meeting. The school’s Parent Teacher Organization is circulating a petition for people who do not support closing the school.

At the beginning of this school year, several Walton parents spoke at a September School Board meeting and shared their frustrations about the lack of staff at the Walton School. It was during a meeting in which committee members approved transferring the then-Walton principal Meghan Wood, who had just been assigned to the position the school year before, to Washburn Elementary School as principal.


Brown called the agenda item’s wording regarding the Walton discussion for this week’s meeting “unartfully written,” stating that she takes responsibility for that. One Walton PTO member has already shared interest in joining the transition committee if it is formed.

The School Committee needs to decide what to do with the recommendations in that facilities report, Brown said. It needs to choose how it will transition the city’s schools from the state they’re in now to where it wants them to be in the future.

Brown said she understands why people in the Walton School neighborhood do not like the idea of closing the school, but the building is in need of multiple repairs, while its enrollment is around half of what it was five to eight years ago. She said Sherwood Heights Elementary School is also at about half its student population capacity.

Though she does not think the local architects will have repair costs at this week’s meeting, the report will reflect what the needs are in city schools, she said.

Brown wants people to take a look at the “entire picture,” she said. Student populations in city schools have decreased by hundreds of students over the last five years and that decrease is projected to continue for the next five years. She thinks it would be irresponsible if officials did not consider the future of city schools amid these trends.

With about a half a billion dollars worth of capital in School Department facilities, part of Brown’s job is to evaluate the state of those buildings, she said. It is unlikely that the School Department will be able fix everything at once, so she needs to consider the facts and relay those to the School Committee to decide how to proceed.

The School Committee is not expected to make any final decisions on results or recommendations this week, other than possibly forming the transition committee, she said.

As the daughter of a former Walton teacher, Brown said she understands why the school means a lot to people. However, she said, it is one of the oldest schools in the city and it has some significant issues that need to be addressed, including safety issues.

“I hope people will look at the facts and base their decisions on what’s in the best long-term interest of Auburn,” she said.

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