There's debate around how school districts should implement early release days in Maine districts.

Many school districts use early release days for teachers' professional development: times when teachers can meet to talk about what concepts they need to emphasize and what techniques are working when teaching students to make sure students are ready for college and a career, according to Auburn Schools Superintendent Katy Grondin.

At a board meeting in early May, the Auburn School Board decided not to implement a new plan that would have created 13 early release Wednesdays for students in grades 7 through 12. Students would get out at 11:30 a.m. on those early release days, said Grondin.

Different districts handle the releases differently. Cape Elizabeth schools approved a plan in February 2017 to have 14 early release days on Wednesdays throughout the year, but schools would release one hour earlier than normal dismissal times, according to assistant superintendent Andrea Fuller and Cathy Stankard, Director of Teaching and Learning.

Parents in Auburn criticized the plan, worrying about the "loss of instruction time," according to Grondin.

"We're not going to have children not learning at the same level and degree because of this," said Grondin. "When people say you're losing an hour of instruction time, that's what you're equating to a seat time. It's going to be that professional development helps us get better to help us better instruct to make our teaching effective so our students continue to learn as they have been and will continue to do so."

Grondin said a handful of districts across Maine hold professional development days during the school calendar in some form, including: Lewiston, SAD 52, RSU 16, SAD 15, Portland, RSU 2, South Portland, Biddeford, Sanford, Brunswick, SAD 75, Gorham, Westbrook, Falmouth, and Cumberland.

Some working parents said Thursday that, depending on how their child's district handles early releases, they may have to schedule child care more frequently for less time, or less often for larger chunks of time.

"The regularity of it is going to mean more need for childcare as opposed to being able to step out every now and then once a month or so," said Gayle Bowness, a mother of two kids in the Cape Elizabeth district. "I really understand and respect the need that teachers do need that time. It makes our schools great. It makes our teachers great. It makes working around that schedule complicated."

"We want to make sure our teachers have the time to work together to make sure we're doing everything we can so students are meeting those proficiency levels and for our teachers to meet the teacher effectiveness standards," said Grondin.