Saline Area Schools give parents options to avoid increasing class sizes
A group of Saline Area School District parents worried about large class sizes will get some relief, but not their request to hire another teacher.
While Saline school officials knew class sizes at the elementary level would be increased as a way to contain costs, they weren’t planning for the 31- and 32-student third grade classrooms at Woodland Meadows School, said Steve Laatsch, assistant superintendent for instructional services. That happened because of a higher than expected number of third graders in the school’s boundary area.
While Saline teachers, members of the Saline Education Association, voted to roll back their wages to 2008-09 levels beginning this school year as a way to avoid layoffs and preserve smaller classes, the district will not add a fifth third grade teacher at Woodland Meadows, Laatsch said. He said it would be too expensive.
Instead, the district Monday afternoon sent a letter to parents detailing two options: Parents could transfer their student to a third grade classroom in another of the district’s elementary schools, where class-size average is 27 students. They would have to be able to provide their own transportation.
If no families elect this option, leaving class size at 31 or 32, the district will hire teaching assistants for the Woodland Meadows third grade classrooms, Laatsch said. “We’ll provide support, another set of hands. There are a number of good candidates with teaching degrees who (might) be interested in working part-time or a half day.”
Parent Lisa Dickson, who is a substitute teacher in the district, said she’s concerned students in such large classes will miss individualized help. Last year, when her son was in second grade, there were only 24 or 25 students in his class. Now there are 32. “With that many students at that young of an age, you’re not teaching as much as you’re managing a classroom. That’s a lot of students to keep under control,” Dickson said.
Dickson was one of several parents who spoke at the Saline Board of Education meeting last week.
Some parents had complained that schools of choice students (students from outside of the district) had ballooned the third grade class size. While schools of choice third graders who already were attending Woodland Meadows were allowed to matriculate, no new third grade students from outside the district were allowed at the school this year, Laatsch said.
Even with an anticipated 70-student loss district-wide, elementary class sizes are up an average 1.3 students this school year, Laatsch said, with average kindergarten classes increasing by four students, to 26, and sixth grade class size rising by 2.3 students.
The numbers aren’t in yet on secondary class size, he said, although the district did eliminate the 40-student high school classes that existed last school year.