Cut first-grade class sizes, Rhinebeck parents urge school board
RHINEBECK, N.Y. — Parents of kindergartners in the Rhinebeck school district are calling on the Board of Education to reduce first-grade class sizes or hire additional teaching assistants this fall.
The parents are concerned the total enrollment of 71 pupils in three kindergarten sections is expected to grow to 74 this fall when the pupils enter first grade.
“I’ve gone into the kindergarten classroom this year ... as well as two years ago when my daughter was in a class of 17,” parent Mary Krembs told trustees at a board meeting Tuesday evening. “The physical classroom is not set up and able to handle that many students. It feels tight, and kindergartners need space.”
Some 38 parents attended Tuesday’s board meeting.
“These are the folks ... who are in the classroom doing ELA (English language arts), reading and writing, class events,” parent Frank Seldin said. “We see it every day ... the impact of having that big a group and what it does for them, which is why we’re so strongly advocating for adding another section and bringing class sizes down to what is historically a normal level.”
Information provided by Seldin and Krembs showed the district has increased first-grade class sizes from 18.3 students in 2010-11 to 22.7 in 2011-12.
There was some support on the board for adding a section in kindergarten and first and second grades.
“I would encourage the board to think bolder and be more creative,” Trustee Paul Slayton said.
Slayton said the district could change its spending priorities to cover the cost of additional teachers and aides needed for new class sections.
Trustee Diane Kantaros was concerned about the board being pressured to add expenses to the budget. Continued...
“I also find it a little bit frustrating that we’re having this conversation this late in the budget cycle,” she said.
Trustee Mark Fleischhauer agreed there was pressure being put on the board that could lead to a school budget defeat.
“I would just like to remind us all that if we get a ‘no’ vote, we get one more chance to pass the budget and then we go to a zero percent tax levy increase ... which requires a $793,000 cut in the budget,” he said.
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