The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Katonah-Lewisboro

Class size conundrum continues

By JACKIE LUPO

Katonah-Lewisboro School District superintendent Paul Kreutzer recommended at least a temporary reprieve for the students about to enter Meadow Pond’s second grade. Reversing his earlier recommendation to consolidate those kids into two classes with up to 24 in each, those students will likely be in three classes of 15-16 when school opens. But as one vocal group of Meadow Pond parents rejoices, parents of Lewisboro’s incoming kindergartners, slated for classes of 23, may be the next group the school board will be hearing from.

Dr. Kreutzer presented his final recommendations for class sizes at the school board meeting on Thursday, Aug. 9. The complexities of teacher assignments and bus routing for half-day kindergartners are just two of the reasons the administration is eager to finalize class distributions. But even as he and Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Alice Cronin stressed the need to resolve the issue as soon as possible, both acknowledged that latecomers could still change the enrollment picture up until the day school begins.


Katonah Elementary School

The largest school in the district, with 437 students attending last year, Katonah Elementary’s enrollment was projected to decrease to 420 when the budget was finalized last spring. Since then, however, enrollment has not even reached those expectations; only 398 students have signed up so far. The administration is planning for three sections of kindergarten, with 55 students divided into classes of 18-19. So far, nine fewer students than expected have signed up for kindergarten.

Grade 1 is expected to have 60 students divided into three classes of  20, five fewer overall than were expected at budget time. Grade 2 has 63 students signed up, for three sections of 21 (two more overall than were expected), and Grade 3 will likely have 66 students divided among three classes of 22. The district had expected 72 in Grade 3. In Grade 4, signups to date come to 79 students divided among 4 classes of 19-20, exactly as projected. Grade 5 is set for four sections of 18-19, with a total of 75 students (four fewer than projected).


Meadow Pond Elementary School

Meadow Pond is the smallest of Katonah-Lewisboro’s four elementary schools. Last year, it had 321 students, while this year, 308 have signed up so far. Last year’s kindergarten had 48 students, but this year only 39 have signed up so far. Last year’s kindergarten classes were relatively large, with two sections of 24; at budget time, the district tried to head off the prospect of such large classes again by budgeting for 49 kindergarteners in three sections. But so far, enrollments have not warranted three sections, so two sections of 19-20 are planned. Last year’s first grade had 47 kids divided into three sections of 15-16, the smallest class size of any grade in the district. This year, three sections are planned again, with 46 students in classes of 15-16. So far, five students fewer than projected have been enrolled. This fall’s incoming second grade (47 students so far), the same cohort that was in classes of 15-16 last year, had been budgeted for two classes of 23-24. The prospect of larger class sizes mobilized a large group of parents of last year’s first graders to petition the administration not to go back to two sections. On August 9, Dr. Kreutzer recommended that the board approve three sections of 15-16.

“I’d be comfortable with 15 or 16 for them,” said Dr. Kreutzer, calling this a “very generous class size throughout the district.” But, he said, “the problem with small schools, when you say you’re going to go the other way, you jump to the top. So it’s either you’re going to be the high or you’re going to be the low. I like giving the priority to the K, 1 and 2.” Dr. Kretuzer said that with the possibility of a few more students arriving by opening day, if he kept the grade at two sections, class size might rise to 25 or 26, so he recommended “erring on the size of keeping that small.”


Lewisboro Elementary School

At Lewisboro, kindergarten enrollment was at 46 students as of August 9, and the administration had originally recommended three sections of 15-16.  Dr. Kreutzer said his office had been tracking enrollment for this kindergarten since June with the idea of consolidating the class into two sections of 23 each, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

“Being at 23, my eyebrow raises,” he said. “However, you have to understand that we give a full-time aide to all the kindergartens, so you have two adults in all the rooms. And one of those is also a ‘collab’ class [a class including students receiving special education services, with an additional teacher certified in special ed placed in the classroom], so now you have one of the sections that will have three adults full-time. So the ratio there is a little better.” Dr. Kreutzer said that although he had been “on the wire” about that decision, his office had already informed parents that there would be two sections, bus routes had been put in place and parents had made day-care arrangements. He added that with two classes, the students in the “collab” class would have more non-special ed students to interact with, a more ideal situation with respect to the goal of educating special-needs kids in what state law describes as the “least restrictive environment.”

Grade 1 enrollment stood at 44 students, for two sections of 21-22. Grade 2, with 58 enrolled, will have three sections of 19-20. For Grade 3, the superintendent is recommending increasing the number of sections from the previously recommended three sections of 25, to four sections of 19-20. Enrollment for the grade is already at 79 students, said Dr. Kreutzer, four more than were projected at budget time.

Grade 4, with 77 students enrolled so far, is slated to have four sections of 19 to 20 each, a number that’s in line with earlier projections. Grade 5 has 60 students enrolled, to be divided among three sections of 20.


Increase Miller Elementary School

Last fall, Increase Miller had 346 students, and the budget for this fall projected that 361 students would attend. But so far, only 337 students have signed up.

Its kindergarten class is shaping up to have three sections of 16-17 each. Fifty students have enrolled so far, eight less than the district had projected at budget time. As reported here earlier, however, kindergarten enrollments are the hardest to predict, with the possibility of more enrollments closer to the end of school. Grade 1 has 43 enrollees divided between two sections of 21 and 22, somewhat less than the projection of 45 in the grade. Grade 2 has 59 students so far, divided among three sections of 19-20, and five fewer than the projected total. The school’s third grade, with 64 signed up, will likely have three sections of 21-22, and, once again, has five students fewer than projected. Grade 4 has 61 enrolled, divided among three sections of 20-21, and Grade 5, with 60 students signed up, has three sections of 20.

The superintendent said the changes in class sizes would be essentially “budget neutral.”

The recommended changes could mean money would have to be found for one more full-time teacher, about $140,000 with salary and benefits, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Michael Jumper. Dr. Kreutzer noted that there were places in the administrative areas of the budget that could be redirected there. Some of the funds could come from smaller administrative personnel costs related to having interim staff appointments, some could come from monies budgeted for beautification-type maintenance programs, and some could come from deferring staff development programs related to new technology that the district will probably not be ready to adopt this year anyway.

“There’s a lot of things you could do with that money,” said Dr. Kreutzer. But especially with the grades K through 2, I don’t want to see class sizes with 27 creeping in.” He cautioned that even though his recommendation is to keep most class sizes small this year, “I’ll go on record as saying I probably won’t be able to maintain this for our tenure here.”

Barring any extraordinary changes in enrollment between now and the next school board meeting, the board is expected to adopt the superintendent’s class size recommendations when they meet on Aug. 23.


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