By SCOOTER MACMILLAN
A group of Hinesburg Community School parents concerned about kindergarten and first grade class size appeared before the Champlain Valley School Board at the Feb. 19.
Katie Myhre works at Hinesburg Community School but said that she was at the meeting as a mother. She spoke against eliminating a first-grade teacher at the school.
Myhre said that the board has described kindergarten and first-grade classes of 19 students as large at Charlotte Central School, but that cutting a first-grade teacher at Hinesburg Community School would make the size of classes there just as large.
“Each fall, several additional students are added to our class size as families join our community,” she said. “This means our class sizes will likely increase from the current proposed start of 20 and 21 students.”
She also objected to a teaching position being held for Shelburne Community School in case the number of its students rises.
“We believe class sizes of 20-21, already outside the Vermont quality standards of fewer than 20, is too high,” she said. “If 20 is too big in Charlotte, Shelburne and Williston, isn’t it too big in Hinesburg?”
Superintendent Elaine Pinckney said that the extra teaching position is not held specifically for Shelburne.
“We will use that where we need it,” she said. “Your situation is no different than Charlotte. Their situation is exactly the same, which is very, very small kindergarten classes for this year.”
Pinckney said that she meets with the principals weekly to discuss how they will handle incoming students.
School board chair Lynne Jaunich pointed out that the board has to craft a budget that can be approved in March, but that “there are a lot of moving pieces and once that budget number is known, that doesn’t mean everybody stops looking at all the pieces.”
Last year, the board had to make changes to accommodate student numbers in Williston.
Board vice chair Colleen MacKinnon said in the past, the board has made budget adjustments right up until school starts.
Talking by phone after the meeting, Jaunich reiterated that the teaching position has in fact not been designated for any of the schools but will go to the school where with the largest average class size.
She said that the school system will be in compliance with Educational Quality Standards that require that the average class size of kindergarten through third grade be 20 students or fewer.
“We predict as best we can,” she said. “But there is fallback. Before consolidation one special education student moving into or out of a school could have major impact, but that doesn’t happen now. This is one of the reasons we have a fund balance so if something unexpected happens like class size goes up or the roof blows off.”
Jaunich said she felt the group who had come to the school board meeting had their worries assuaged because “I got an email from one of them saying that they felt heard.”