AUGUSTA — School officials hope to pick up additional instructional time by having all elementary school students end their school day, and start their bus rides home, at the same time.

Currently, to accommodate the bus schedule, dismissal times at the city’s four elementary schools are staggered, starting at 2:45 p.m. and continuing until 3:10 p.m.

Superintendent Cornelia Brown said teachers and students could gain time for instruction if enough buses are added so all elementary school students could be dismissed at the same time.

Business Manager Karla Miller said it probably would take at least two additional buses to allow all elementary schools to end their school day at the same time. She said a new bus costs about $78,000.

Brown said the district’s bus contract, with First Student, expires at the end of this school year. She said the request for proposals for new bids to provide busing for Augusta include having all elementary students on a single bus run, at 3:15 p.m. She said the bus bids will be opened next month.

Brown said increasing instruction time could improve student achievement.

“For us it’d be a great gift of instructional time,” Hussey Principal Michelle Michaud said.

Susan Campbell, board member, said the additional classroom time every day could add up to the equivalent of 36 school days over the year.

Board members discussed the change at a special workshop Monday.

Also at the workshop, board members learned it could cost nearly $1 million if Augusta were to make all four of its elementary schools comprehensive neighborhood schools by having each offer their own special education and other programs.

Some programs in Augusta are provided districtwide, at some, but not all, of the city’s elementary schools.

For example, under the current structure, all students in kindergarten through grade seven in the autism program attend Lincoln Elementary School.

Students in kindergarten through grade two in a behavioral program attend Farrington Elementary, while behavioral program students in grades three to six attend Gilbert Elementary School.

Meanwhile, functional skills programs are in place at Lincoln Elementary for grades kindergarten to two, and at Farrington for grades three to six.

It would cost about $980,000 to add staffing and build and equip classrooms at each school to accommodate the change, including $425,000 to add seven new teachers with expertise in those fields and $416,000 to add 13 education technicians, including benefit costs, according to Special Education Director Donna Madore.

There is no current proposal to make the change.

Board members asked school principals whether having behavioral programs in their schools hurts the ability of other students to learn, because of increased disruptions by students in the behavioral program acting out.

Two elementary-level principals said a student acting out is indeed disruptive to other students, but said any student, whether in the behavioral program or not, could act out. They said the key is dealing with them appropriately. They also said having staff trained to deal with behavior issues helps.

“Do they disrupt at times? Absolutely,” said Sue Dionne, principal of Gilbert Elementary. “If they’re taking time away from other kids’ learning, we take them out of the room, and they have to earn their way back into the classroom.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]


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