BILLERICA, MASS. (WHDH) - A plan to extend the school day in Billerica was voted down Tuesday as part of a heated meeting of the town’s school committee. 

The plan would have added a half hour to the day beginning next year for public elementary and middle school students. But some parents and teachers voiced concerns, discussing the timing of the plan’s rollout, among other things. 

“I think there are huge benefits to extending the day,” School Committee Secretary Michael Domina said. “The problem is with the communication and the planning process of this major decision.”

Billerica Public Schools Superintendent Tim Piwowar said that, at 6 hours and 10 minutes, the town’s elementary schools have one of the shortest school day lengths in the area. 

Piwowar said the additional 30 minutes would help support the academic, social and emotional needs of students. 

The opportunity to provide individualized support and intervention to students who are struggling would allow those students “to get back on track,” Piwowar said.

A recent survey of Billerica families found there was mixed feedback on the proposal, however. 

On Tuesday, parents and teachers spoke up, saying details of the plan were not shared with them until the previous day. 

“This plan should have been given to the people of Billerica and the teachers and paras that it affects prior to one day before the School Committee votes on it,” one speaker said.

Also among issues was the creation of an early release childcare program that would be staffed by paraprofessionals. 

“It would be the two hours where we were hoping we would be with our teachers or collaborate with other staff members, that we would be with the kids babysitting,” Billerica paraprofessional Allison Bucci said. 

“It’s not about the kids,” Bucci said. “It’s not about babysitting. It’s that nobody consulted us. Nobody talked to us.”

(Copyright (c) 2022 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox