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Emmetsburg School Board Opts For Team-Teaching For Third Grade Class

By Staff | Oct 12, 2010

Third grade enrollment numbers, and how to handle larger class sizes were the topics of discussion during a special meeting of the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education on Oct. 6, at the high school/middle school library. Nearly every seat in the library was filled with either a parent or teacher of a third grade student.

Presently, there are two sections of third grade at Emmetsburg West Elementary; one classroom has 28 and another has 29 students. The district plans to use $134,372 of new federal money to fund three paraeducators, one for each third grade classroom and one to assist with middle school reading.

Superintendent John Joynt presented five options on how to handle the larger class sizes. He recommended that the board consider Option B as the best available choice.

Option A: Situation would remain “as-is.”

Option B: A special education teacher would be hired to work with the special education overload at the West Elementary and participate in team-teaching third grade math and reading. This special education teacher could also be shared with the Middle School, particularly in reading.

Option C: A third grade teacher would be hired at semester time and located to the music room. Music instruction would then be delegated to “music on a cart,” where the music teacher would bring instruction to each classroom.

Option D: Includes any parts of the previous options for the 2011-2012 school year. A portable building could be purchased or an addition to West Elementary could be built in the future.

Option E: Eliminate pre-Kindergarten (move the pre-K students to Kindergarten, which would result in 24 and 25 students in each Kindergarten classroom). This would free up a room for an additional third grade section.

Several parents also spoke during the evening. Robin Jamison, a third grade parent, acted as spokesperson for the parent group.

“It’s very concerning to us as parents, that many of our students are now struggling from anxiety or not wanting to go to school this year-when they haven’t had issues in the past,” Jamison stated. “Furthermore, there are a few of our eight-year olds that are even utilizing medication to assist with sleeping or anxiety as a result of our current situation, so in response to a comment made last board meeting, yes, this is hurting our students.”

Jamison presented information that she had collected from the research of Dr. Achilles, a leading expert on class size related to student achievement. Achilles established the link between smaller class sizes and increased pupil performance as a primary investigator for the Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR). Jamison shared that Achilles stated that a class size no greater than 19 would be of great benefit to the students.

“The optimal solution is to hire an additional teacher for the third grade class,” said Jamison. “As the enrollment is expected to be even higher for the next eight years, this is a problem that is not going away.”

Jamison also thanked third grade teacher Kari Schany, who brought her concerns on class size to the board at their September meeting.

“We would collectively like to express our unconditional support for Mrs. Schany, who stood up for all students as we feel that she is not only more than capable of handling a large class size, but she is exceptional at what she does for our students and our school district,” Jamison concluded.

Although she was unable to attend the meeting, Schany submitted a letter to the board. In the letter she stated that her first choice to correct the class size issue would be a new third grade classroom. Her second choice would be Option B, the hiring of an additional special education teacher who would take a reading and math group.

Third Grade Teacher Diana Stafford was in attendance and voiced her support of Option B, as well.

“I like Option B because we keep our paraeducators and split into small groups,” said Stafford. “It’s a team-teaching approach, and I’m really happy about that part of it. All students will receive instruction at the same time, but would have more one-on-one time in smaller groups for the core classes like reading and math.”

“With our finances and limitations, we’re trying to make the best decisions possible for everyone,” said Tammy Naig, board member. “If we do Option B, the special education teacher could be shared by the middle school in the afternoons. Right now, we’re on a watch list for reading at the middle school. We have to look at what’s best for all students-K-12.”

Don Hagen, board member, asked for a consensus from the parents if Option B was acceptable. The parent group, in general, was in agreement that it was.

Hagen then moved to proceed with Option B. His motion was seconded by Laure Egland, and approved unanimously on a roll call vote.

“Maybe at semester time we can see how things are going and look at this again,” said Hagen. “At that time we might need to look at our other options.”