By Daniel E. McGonigle
The Caledonia Argus
With class sizes for the upcoming kindergarten class climbing to near 50, the Caledonia Area School Board voted to approve a third section of kindergarten at their regular August meeting.
“It is a good problem to have,” stated Elementary Principal Gina Meinertz.
District officials discussed the need for an additional section of kindergarten to bring the class sizes down to a more manageable level for that age of students.
“I guess what I struggle with is why not first grade, why not second grade,” said board member Jared Barnes. “I am in favor of it, but why is it OK to have the larger class sizes when the students get older.”
Middle School/High School Principal Mary Morem countered that when a student has the opportunity to go through a year of school, or two, he or she learns much of the basic things that teachers spend their times teaching to kindergarten aged students.
“It’s new to them,” Morem said. “By first grade they should have things down like walking in a line through the hallway. It takes away from the classroom learning when the kindergarten teachers are working with students on those types of things.”
“It’s a philosophical debate,” said board member Emily McGonigle, “and I don’t disagree with you Jared. I think anything we can do to set a student up for a path to success we should try and accomplish.”
“I love the idea of adding the extra teacher, I just think we should consider it for the students who are in first grade, second grade, third grade as well,” Barnes added.
Superintendent Ben Barton estimated that the cost to the district of adding a teacher would be about $55,000 when considering salary and benefits.
When asked ‘why not the cheaper option of a classroom aid or a paraprofessional, Barton countered that much of the responsibilities would fall in the category of “teacher” versus a supporting role.
“I think in answer to the additional classrooms, sure we’d love to consider more teachers and lower student to teacher ratios for all of our grades, but like anything, it comes down to money,” Barton said.
The board voted to add the third position by unanimous vote.
Mr. Barton said the district would follow the proper hiring procedures and Mrs. Meinertz said she would get right on it the following day.
The school board approved the language for an operating/learning levy referendum which will be on the ballot for a November 7 general election.
Information on the measure will be published in future weeks but the levy is intended to replace one that is expiring.