Sudden increase in third grade enrollment causes concerns over class sizes

Teachers send letter to school board opposing reduction of third grade sections from five to four

— In the midst of overall declining enrollment, the size of the 2013-14 third grade class at Burton Street Elementary School has taken a sudden turn upward with an increase of at least five students. This unexpected influx, plus a previously-approved elimination of one section (classroom and teacher) from third grade, has caused concerns among teachers and district parents that third grade class sizes next year will be so large as to be detrimental to students and more challenging for teachers.

“Classes beyond 20 [students] at this grade level proves to be challenging in so many ways, and to hear that the board is proposing the third grade be dropped to four sections for the 2013-14 school year is something that we oppose,” wrote the entire third grade staff of Deanna Abbey, Kara Burry, Heather Enderle, Eileen VanAntwerp and Amanda Yerdon in a letter to the board of education dated June 13. “As teachers we only want the best for our students, and to work with class sizes greater than 20, we are challenged to meet their individual needs. With larger class sizes we spend more time managing and less time teaching.”

The teachers submitted the letter to district Superintendent Robert Dubik, who presented it to the school board during its regular monthly meeting on June 17. All five teachers, as well as other Burton Street teachers, staff and administrators, also attended the meeting.

According to the district, the incoming third grade class for the 2013-14 school year was expected to be 98 students — 11 less than the 2012-13 class — and with four teachers would create an approximate class size of 24.5 students per teacher. The incoming third grade class had four-and-a-half class sections during second grade (the half being the multi-age classroom, which included first graders), which is why the administration decided to reduce third grade this year from five to four sections and shift the extra section/teaching position to a different grade level, the administration previously decided during the recent budget discussions.

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