AUGUSTA — Middle school students are going to have to get out of bed about an hour earlier next school year.

The Augusta Board of Education voted to approve a new schedule for middle school students at Cony High School, starting about an hour earlier and putting them on the same schedule, and same school buses, as their older high school peers.

Principal James Anastasio said the change was prompted by a request from the Cony faculty, in part because faculty members thought having students and staff in grades 7 and 8 on a different schedule than their older peers made it hard for staff teaching those two age groups to work together.

The middle and high school age groups have been on different schedules since Hodgkins Middle School closed and its grades 7-8 students moved to Cony High School in 2009.

Parents at the time expressed concern about the younger students mixing with high school students, so middle school students were put on a later schedule, and later bus run with elementary school students, in response.

School officials have reported few problems between middle and high school students at Cony since the merger. Also, Anastasio noted, middle and high school students used to ride on the same buses, before Hodgkins closed, anyway.

With the new change, both middle and high school students will start school at 7:10 a.m.

The new schedule was approved by the Augusta Board of Education on Wednesday, in a 7-1 vote, with Larry Ringrose the lone dissenter.

Ringrose said he voted against the change because he thought 7:10 is too early to start the school day.

Superintendent Cornelia Brown said four parents attended the meeting, with one expressing concern about putting high school and middle school students on the same schedule, and about her seventh-grader having to catch the bus to school about 6:30 a.m. to make it to school on time.

Brown acknowledged that getting up at that time “is pretty early” for middle school students, but she said board members considered, but rejected, moving the start of school to 7:30 a.m.

Brown said the new schedule aligns better with that of the adjacent Capital Area Technical Center and will give more educational opportunities to middle school students.

For example, she said, if a talented middle school student wants to take a freshman algebra class, it would have been difficult before, because the student would have been on a different schedule from that of high school students. It should be easier, Brown said, on the same schedule.

Brown and Anastasio also said being on the same schedule could bring more unity to Cony.

Board members also selected a new director of the Capital Area Technical Center, to replace Scott Phair, who retired.

The new director is Peter Gagnon, of West Bath, who was previously assistant director of the Lewiston Regional Technical Center. Gagnon will make about $81,000 on a one-year contract. He starts July 1.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

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