Elementary Class Sizes Hit Maximums at Tonawanda, Swanson
Elmbrook plans to have teaching assistants help fifth grade teachers instruct classes with 30 or 31 students.
A summer surge in elementary school enrollments has caused fifth grade classrooms at two Elmbrook schools to hit maximum desired class sizes.
The Elmbrook School District budgets for "placeholder" teaching positions to address such summer fluctuations — and thought six such placeholders would be enough, said Kristi Foy, district director of human resources.
Due to a larger than normal increase, it wasn't.
Swanson Elementary enrolled 59 new students between June 11 and the first day of school Tuesday.
"That's unprecedented," Foy said.
The surge prompted the district to add new sections for kindergarten, first and second grade at Swanson, hiring three teachers. At Tonawanda Elementary another third grade section was opened and at Dixon, another first grade class.
But that still left the fifth grades at Swanson and Tonawanda at the maximum desired class sizes.
Swanson's four fifth grade classes each had 30 students on the first day of school. Tonawanda's two fifth grade classes had 30 and 31 students.
The largest class size at Elmbrook's other three elementary schools was 27 students.
The School Board's Personnel Committee concurred Wednesday with an administrative recommendation that the district use instructional assistants to help the fifth grade teachers at Swanson and Tonawanda.
The cost would be $59,000, about half of which would be funded by reassigning already budgeted instructional assistant time, said Keith Brightman, assistant superintendent for finance, operations and human resources.
That compares to the approximately $195,000 it would cost to hire new teachers to add fifth-grade sections and lower class sizes to 20 or 24 students.
Creating new sections not only requires new classroom teachers but also more sections of specials such as art, music and physical education, Foy said.
Deciding when to break a class into two sections "is not an exact science," she said. It can depend on the specific children in the classes and and their individual needs. Sometimes a larger class size is not a problem; other times a split needs to be made.
"We do our best," Foy said, adding tha tteachers, parents and administrators all want to limit class sizes.
Superintendent Mark Hansen said he has heard from nine of the 61 families in Tonawanda's two fifth-grade classes.
Tonawanda Principal Alix Kasmarick sent parents a letter this week, saying she planned to move forward with the two classes of 30 and 31 students.
"With district support, we were able to assign a teacher-certified Instructional Assistant to both rooms during reading and math, which will help us differentiate and meet the needs of all students," Kasmarick said. "We are confident that ... each child's needs will be met."
New student enrollments, June 11 to Sept. 4:
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