HALLOWELL — Fifth grade classes will not be part of Hall-Dale Middle School next year after parents complained the students are being socially excluded and prematurely exposed to teenage behavior.

Beginning in the fall, grade five students — meaning this year’s fourth graders — will remain at Hall-Dale Elementary School. This year’s fifth graders will remain at the middle school, which traditionally has included grades six to eight.

Administrators initially moved the fifth grade students to a wing in the middle school for the 2021-22 academic year and told families that it would be a temporary solution to make space for social distancing during the pandemic.

Now that the district has returned to a sense of normalcy, several parents have asked the Regional School Unit 2 board of directors at recent meetings why those students are still at the middle school building.

In a unanimous vote Feb. 2, the board agreed to move the fifth graders back for the 2023-24 school year without discussion.

Board Chair Donna Seppy said she received several emails from parents about the topic. 


Their arguments included that the 10- and 11-year-olds were “too young” to be exposed to middle school and high school students. Hall-Dale High School shares a building with Hall-Dale Middle School, which, at 111 Maple St. in Farmingdale, is about 3 miles away from the elementary school at 26 Garden Lane in Hallowell. 

One parent, Sarah Lutte, said during the public comment period at the Dec. 1 board meeting that the fifth graders were left out of middle school activities, namely, the school dance. At first, the fifth graders were invited to the middle school dance, she said, but after officials were asked whether there would be a chaperone for the 10-year-old students, the fifth graders were disinvited. 

“The experience through the past two years, accommodations they need have not been met, the fifth grade is not included, there is another dance coming up and the fifth grade is not invited. How does my fifth grader feel when they are not included?” Lutte said.

Lutte spoke again at Thursday’s meeting, adding that “all parents are on the same side” and that “everyone feels the same way” about moving the students. She said all parents who were surveyed by the school wanted to have the fifth graders in the elementary school and that “all but two people” responded.

Another parent, Hilary Roberts, spoke at the board meeting about how her daughter heard talk about substance use and social media such as TikTok that she did not want her 10-year-old exposed to. She also said her daughter told her some fifth grade students sit alone at lunch because “there was a place for (them) at the elementary school but not at the middle school.”

Interim Superintendent Rick Amero called it a “burning issue” that he has tried to figure out with Assistant Superintendent and former Principal of Hall-Dale Elementary School, Kristie Clark, during the three months he has led the district. 


Together, they surveyed and spoke with parents and teachers about how they felt. 

“Through all those different levels of feedback, it became clear to meet the needs of learners both academically and emotionally,” Amero said at the Feb. 2 board meeting. “We strongly advocate for the fifth graders to go to the elementary school.” 

By retaining this year’s fourth graders at the elementary school in the fall, the population is expected to be around 350, depending on the size of the incoming kindergarten class. 

Amero said moving the students back will factor into the upcoming budget process as Regional School Unit 2 prepares for next year.  

Though uncommon in the greater Augusta area, having fifth graders in a middle school building is not unheard of in Kennebec County. In Oakland-based Regional School Unit 18, fifth through eighth graders attend China Middle School, while the China Primary School is restricted to pre-K through fourth grade. Elsewhere in central Maine, the elementary schools in Somerville-based Regional School Unit 12 are attached to a middle school, but many other local districts have middle schools either as standalone buildings or attached to a high school.

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