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Greenwich Schools' Class Size Continues to Be An Issue

Administrators have on eye on student needs and the price tag of additional support.

 

"Class size matters a lot..." acknowledged Greenwich Superintendent Dr. William McKersie.

When Greenwich Public Schools started the new year at the end of August, there were 15 elementary school sections across the district approaching maximum class size guidelines (not including the first grade at which is exceeding a smaller guideline based on its magnet program).

Per the last enrollment report dated Sept. 4, there are now 11 schools with class sections at or approaching the maximum class size.

District enrollment and class sizes were a topic of discussion during the first board meeting of the school year. Now, weeks later, it is still an area of concern for the schools involved. Recently, Board of Education Chairman Leslie Moriarty explained that it is the Superintendent’s responsibility to implement the board’s current policy, which is based on board-sanctioned class size guidelines. She added, however, that “we do not manage to the low end of the guideline."

While “the benefit of the kids is always foremost,” the driver in determining the maximum size of class sections is “what we can afford to deliver,” she said. At last month’s meeting, the board decided not to revisit the current policy at this time.

Ranges in Public Education

With an average class size amongst the 11 schools of about 19.4 students per class section, McKersie said he believes where the elementary schools are operating now is “good” based on comparable "ranges in public education.”

Greenwich’s class size “ceilings” are 21 students for kingdergarten and first grade, 24 for second and third grades, and 26 for fourth and fifth grades.

McKersie said “what we have to do is maximize the quality of teachers in Greenwich.”

Following the lengthy discussion at the August 30 board meeting, McKersie said that the administration spent last week analyzing the enrollment beyond numbers and started digging into the specific needs of the students in the Special Education, English Language Learners and Advanced Learners programs.

In reference to recent concerns regarding class size raised by school parents, McKersie said “we took those comments very seriously” and in turn “we are working on it seriously.”

In some classrooms, he revealed, as many as 35 to 45 percent of the students are not in the classroom the full day due to pull-out services or receive push-in services, which puts another adult into the classroom.

'We Have Hit This Budget Wall'

While Moriarty expressed concern about what the district can afford, McKersie said he was also thinking in terms of the impact on the school budget, estimating that every additional section would on average increase the operating budget by $75,000. In addition to a financial constraint, some of the schools have a space constraints as well.

While Sept. 15 is the cutoff for setting class sizes, a decision on adding class sections will likely come earlier since the 15th falls on a Saturday and schools on are closed on Monday, September 17 in recognition of Rosh Hashanah.

'One for One on Nine-One-One'

In other school news, the community has answered President Obama’s proclamation that September 11 be a day of service and remembrance by collecting food items for .

"Our goal has been to collect 2,985 food items, one in the memory of each life lost that day," said GHS Headmaster Chris Winters. Along with the GHS Student Government, the GHS Roots’N’Shoots club will sponsor a one day collection of non-perishable food items and every student and staff member is asked to donate at least one item. The collection, which will be located in the Student Center, "will serve as a memorial throughout the day," according to Winters.

The GHS Roots'N'Shoots club, which has about 60 active members, selects three community service projects each year: one to help people, one to aid animals and one which deals with the environment.

In addition to the food drive, the GHS Student Government and the Environmental Action Committee sponsored a campus clean-up day on Sunday afternoon.

"Each small effort contributes to a successful and respectful remembrance of 9-11," said Winters.

According to Kim Eves, director of communications for GPS, there will be "a district wide moment of silence at  at 10:28 a.m., which is the time the second tower collapsed, on Tuesday, September 11th, encouraging all schools to acknowledge the event as a community."

Portal Progress

Since opening for the school year two weeks ago on the first day of school, the Greenwich Public Schools Parent Portal has been "hit" on often and looking for more attention.

The Portal launched last April and garnered 885 unique users last school year. At the end of last week, users are up by approximately 600, according to Director of Technology for GPS Janice Gunnip who states that "we have 1400+ accounts and counting."

The GPS Tech Department has also delivered as promised the ability for a second parent log-in. Similar to the other portals, the Parent Portal provides access to information on individual students, including attendance and especially useful to parents of secondary students, homework assignments.

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