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Paynesville Press - July 16, 2003

Fall staffing set at PAES

By Michael Jacobson

After months of wrangling, teacher assignments and class sizes have been set for 2003-04 at Paynesville Area Elementary School.

Due to declining enrollment, the school district cut its budget by $150,000 for 2003-04. The original administration proposal last winter included reducing staffing by one teacher for 2003-04, but elementary teachers met with administration several times and with the school board twice to argue that class sizes were larger than optimal and that a teacher should be added to the elementary school to increase the number of sections and lower class sizes.

One point of dispute was the third grade class for next year, which is now projected to have 79 students. In three sections - as is the case now - this means 26 or 27 students per class. To add a teacher and have four sections was suggested by the elementary staff, but the school board decided in April that the district could not afford to add any staff to the elementary school.

As an alternative, the school board approved pursuing a multiage classroom with second and third graders for 2003-04. This would have had a combined section of 20 second and third graders, which would have reduced class sizes in third grade to 23 while slightly increasing class sizes in second grade to 22.

A multiage classroom will not be ready for the 2003-04 school year, elementary principal Todd Burlingame told the school board last week. Instead, district staff has set a schedule to implement multiage classroom(s) in 2004-05.

From September to December, the task force - administration, teachers, board members, and parents - will select grades, identify teacher(s), and start work on a two-year curriculum. In January or February, a parent meeting will be held. In March and April, students will be selected, supplies will be ordered, and the curriculum will continue to be developed. The curriculum will be finalized in the summer before implementation in 2004-05.

Another key concern were class sizes in kindergarten. In the spring, kindergarten had 80 potential students for the fall, which would have meant large class sizes in three sections or finding another teacher to offer four sections. The kindergarten class for the fall (following the kindergarten roundup in May) is now projected at 66 students, which can be divided into three classes of 22 students.

Other elementary staffing for 2003-04 are: four sections of first grade (18 students per class), four sections of second grade (19 students per class), three sections of third grade (26 students per class), three sections of fourth grade (21 students per class), and three sections of fifth grade (24 students per class).

Class Sizes

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