Simon Eugley, 6, takes a rest Wednesday during a demonstration in front of Auburn Hall, asking for Walton Elementary School to remain open. When asked what he liked about the school, Eugley said “The teachers are really fun. Especially mine.” Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — More than a dozen residents and students showed up to the School Committee meeting Wednesday to oppose an agenda item to form a transition committee for the anticipated closing of Walton Elementary School.

The wording of the agenda item was enough to make several Walton faculty, students and residents turn out to defend the school, which many described as being located in a more economically disadvantaged area of the city.

The idea stems from a recommendation in a facilities study that was recently completed and presented at the meeting. Lisa Sawin, an official with the firm Harriman, which helped conduct the study, spoke about the results and subsequent recommendations in the report.

The Facilities Master Plan of Development looked at the city’s student enrollment and the state of school facilities, along with the costs associated with running the facilities. City schools have seen a decrease in enrollment over the last 10 years of 427 students and it is projected to lose about that many students in the next 10 years, according to results in the report.

There were several repairs to all schools that needed to be done but no cost estimates for those repairs were ready for the meeting, according to Sawin.

Though the study looked at all schools, the report identified Walton as being in the worst condition and recommended that the city stop using the school and send students in that neighborhood to Sherwood Heights Elementary School.


Walton has 152 students enrolled in the school, which is 141 students less than the school’s 293-student capacity, according to Sawin. The 89-year-old school needs the most work compared to the other schools in the district, with repairs and upgrades needed for the HVAC system, fire alarm panel, intercom system, water heater, along with several other elements of the building.

Timothy Eugley, 9, left and Marley Kochis, 10, chat during a demonstration Wednesday in front of Auburn Hall during a demonstration to save Walton School. Both children, who are in the same class, intended to speak in front of the school board. Eugley was keeping track of the number of honks he received from passing motorists, which he intended to report to the board. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Resident Bruce Rioux said he was disappointed that a few years ago things at Walton stopped being repaired. That and some other factors made him and others feel like the School Department has been planning to close the school for a while.

Resident and 23-year Auburn Schools staff member Julie Carpenter spoke against closing the school and pointed out that some city schools do not have a cafeteria or a gym and have to share those spaces with other schools, whereas Walton has all of those facilities. She felt uneasy about sending Walton students to Sherwood because the design of that school is not optimal for how classrooms operate now.

Walton teacher Renelle Pollard read a statement on behalf of all school staff at the elementary school stating that there have been whispers of closing the school for the last few years and when staff asked administrators about them, they were given no straight answers. They are disappointed about the idea of closing the school.

Several others who spoke at the meeting criticized the School Department and School Committee for not being transparent about plans for Walton.

Edward Little High School teacher and Auburn Education Association President Marissa Moreau spoke at the meeting against closing the school and questioned what Harriman’s definition of student capacity is. Teachers know what it takes to provide a safe and effective education and it’s not placing 20-25 students in one classroom, she said.


There are a number of student needs that place more responsibility on teachers, she said. Larger classrooms will exacerbate those responsibilities while the district remains understaffed. She requested that the issue be tabled.

Four current Walton students and one former student spoke about their opposition to closing the school at the meeting. Simon Eugley, 6, said Walton is special and if it is shut down it will ruin the fun that students have there. His brother, Timothy, 9, said nothing can replace the school and students have already experienced enough with losing two principals in the last couple of years.

Timothy Eugley, 9, holds a sign asking for “Honks to keep Walton” during a demonstration Wednesday in front of Auburn Hall during a demonstration to save Walton Elementary School. Eugley was keeping track of the number of honks he received from passing motorists, which he intended to report to the school board. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

A former Walton student who still has several years before she graduates from high school said that many students at that school face adversities at home and by closing Walton and making them go to a new school it uproots them from friend groups and teachers who they trust, potentially harming them socially and emotionally.

Jen Eugley, the parent of two Walton students who spoke at the meeting and a Parent Teacher Organization member, highlighted the number of families that attend school events, the number of staff who work at the school, along with some other figures. She said Harriman’s recommendations are only one piece to the puzzle. In about two days she gathered 269 signatures on a petition against closing the school.

Many of the committee members who spoke at the meeting felt that it was too soon to even consider closing Walton because they had just seen the report for the first time that night. Instead, they opted to form an ad hoc Facilities Advisory Committee.

Other members felt that an ad hoc committee should not be considered until newly elected School Committee members are sworn in. Daniel Poisson Sr. made a motion to table the issue until Jan. 17. A majority of committee members rejected the motion to table the issue and approved forming the ad hoc committee. It is likely the School Committee will appoint members to the ad hoc committee in January.

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