By Gail Callahan
Despite the concerns of a number of parents, administrators at Charlotte Central School (CCS) plan on moving ahead with the proposal to reduce the number of fifth grade classrooms from three to two.
The concept, which was introduced during the budget process last year, caused a small firestorm among several incoming fifth grade parents. During a May School Board meeting, the concerned parents told school directors they supported 18 to 19 students split between three classrooms and three fifth-grade classroom, rather than the two proposed by administration. Citing behavioral issues and the high number of students in that grade who are currently on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 educational plans, many were concerned about the academic experience students would receive if class sizes were expanded.
After listening to parents’ concerns, the Board indicated it wanted to discuss the fifth-grade configuration at special forum on June 25.
CCS Co-Principal Audrey Boutaugh, who oversees grades five through eight, recommended to the Board that the number of fifth-grade classroom and accompanying teachers be reduced from three to two with 28 students in each classroom.
According to minutes from the May Board meeting, parents expressed “concern that the school is moving away from being a community school” and were “alarmed that [the] school is
more concerned about the teachers [than] the students.”
Responding to parents’ concerns, the Board pledged to discuss students’ behavior and commissioned a panel to study data leading to a five-year plan.
Boutaugh told those in attendance that if enrollment climbed to 29 students in a room, she would likely return to school directors, seeking permission to hire another classroom teacher. She also remarked that additional para educators would be assigned to the fifth grade.
“The Board has decided to go through with the administration’s recommendation for two, fifth-grade groupings,” said Boutaugh. “Para educator support will be in the rooms, and all voices were heard at the June 25 Board meeting.”
Sage Bagnato, an incoming fifth grade parent, attended both the May and June School Board meetings where the issue was discussed. “The CCS School Board heard our concerns about the large class size,” said Bagnat “but made it clear from the start that they intended to support the Administration’s proposal to consolidate the three, fifth-grade classes into two for the upcoming school year.”
Parent of an in-coming fifth grader, Kelly Devine, also expressed concern about the issue. She questioned why 28 students in a room was acceptable, but 29 wasn’t. She also noted that she understood if enrollment increases during summer for that grade administrators would return to the Board, seeking approval to hire another teacher.
Devine indicated she would wait and see if student numbers increase. She didn’t rule out other educational options, including enrolling her child in a different school, if her concerns continue.