Parents Express Concern Over Class Sizes

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Parents of fourth grade students at East Elementary expressed their concerns about transitioning from three classrooms this year to two classrooms next year during Thursday’s Athens City Schools Board of Education meeting.

Josh Thomas, a father of an East Elementary fourth grade student, spoke to board members about the concerns for students and teachers with the larger class sizes to be put in place next year.

“Over the past three years, our 52 students have been divided into three manageable classrooms. In the past weeks, we have come to learn that for the coming year the plan is to only have two fifth grade classrooms and that concerns us,” said Thomas.

Thomas explained four different concerns that the large class size brings among the parents.

“First and foremost, we are concerned about the shear number of students — 52 students is a large number. Divided in two classrooms that would put 26 per classroom. We think that’s a pretty large number for both teachers and students to manage on a daily basis,” said Thomas. He also expressed that this number does not include students that could move into the district or other international students that may attend the school.

“Secondly, I think that we recognize that within our 52 students we have varied personalities,” he said.

Thomas added that the principal and staff at the school have done a good job balancing that with the three classrooms, but it would be more of a concern with only two rooms.

“We are concerned that with a two classroom system that balancing act is going to be very difficult to achieve,” he added.

“Third, we also know that we only have one returning fifth grade teacher, Jen Wakeley. So now not only are we concerned that we have a large classroom size but we are also going to be placing a brand new teacher into that situation that is not familiar with East Elementary or our students. Thus making the situation even more difficult to deal with.”

Thomas concluded his points by pointing out that upcoming classes are also larger than they have been in the past. He encouraged the Board to speak with the fourth grade teachers and to consider adding another fifth grade teacher to the ranks.

East Elementary has always housed two sections per grade, up until just a few years ago, said Supt. Carl Martin.

“Due to a number of factors we have added to make three sections in kindergarten through fourth grade, with two sections in fifth and sixth grades. With the two sections we get in the larger range of 23-25 students per section,” said Martin.

“Right now at 52, we will monitor closely. It’s May so anything can happen before August,” said Martin, adding that he does not want the class size to be any larger with the two sections.

Adding staff is just one obstacle to adding another classroom for the fifth grade (or any other grade).

“There is no space in the school so that aren’t many options,” stated the superintendent.

Space in the building has been utilized to capacity with the addition of the third class for K-4 grades over the past few years.

Martin added that there is diversity in the school, particularly with the English as a Second Language class. Much of the diversity in the school is not with the special needs population, but with the international students, according to Martin,

Martin and others in the district will continue to monitor the class size and consider what else may be done to help the situation at East Elementary.

“I have not dismissed it,” said Martin at Thursday’s meeting.