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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:

59: Swanson
13: Tonawanda
13: Burleigh
  8: Brookfield Elem
  3: Dixon

Kirsten Lee September 08, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Here is my voice: Do not add more teachers. Class size of 30 is manageable especailly with an assistant who is teacher-certified. My children who attended Burleigh when there were over 700 students scored 32 in 2009 and 30 in 2012 on the ACT. They have had quality educations. In fact my daughter who scored 32 was in the last year of Burleigh having six 5th grade classes. Maybe one item that should be looked at is allowing students to stay in the district after they move to another school district. If many of these new students are renters, they can easily move next year but continue to attend Elmbrook Schools.
Meg Sier September 14, 2012 at 02:20 AM
You speak as if it is OK for the poor communities to have 30+ students in a class. I personally know of an inner city 7th grade class with 43. Today. Right now. When it happens in MPS the teachers are told "Research shows that class size doesn't matter, the quality of the teacher is what counts." Now that it is happening in an affluent community, I find the outrage almost laughable. Not the class size, the outrage. When will people start to care about ALL of society? I guess my answer is never. It's only when it bites you in your own behind do you even notice. Well, if the electorate doesn't wake up, it will be much more than education that is effected. Wait until YOUR healthcare is cut. Then your comment say "You hear about healthcare like this in poor communities!" or "You hear about crime like this in poor communities!" Remember, what you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me. JC.
Meg Sier September 14, 2012 at 02:25 AM
I agree. I'm not sure where the disconnect is for people. Can they not see the connection between cuts directly from the governors office to the schools? It was said that last year the cuts wouldn't be felt, but this year they would be. Well, it is here. Just wish people would've paid more attention to education than their $45 tax cut.
Meg Sier September 14, 2012 at 02:25 AM
And the cuts from Walker only made it much worse.
Meg Sier September 14, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Wait a minute. They have 30 plus an assistant??? OMG. Try 40 to one and then try to understand why Milwaukee teachers were a bit "upset" last year.

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