Plan for multiage class debated in Sanbornton


December 09, 2009
SANBORNTON — In response to concerns from some Sanbornton Central School parents, the School Board will discuss at its next meeting the decision to form a multiage class for first and second graders.

The plan will consolidate the two first grade and two second grade classes into one first grade class, one second grade class, and one multiage class.

According to School Board Chairman Mike Gagne, the change is being made for "a multitude of reasons." One is that the small class sizes at SCS are "disparagingly different" from Union Sanborn School's and Southwick School's. Gagne said the board and district administration is looking to create equity among all the elementary schools.

Budgetary issues are also a driving force behind the decision, Gagne said. The consolidation will eliminate one teaching position.

At the Nov. 16 School Board meeting, several parents who have students at Sanbornton Central told the board that they're concerned the quality of education will diminish if this plan is implemented. Specific concerns were that the school doesn't have the physical space or adequate resources, such as the ability to juggle classroom time and manage scheduling.

One parent said that if the board is looking to create equity in the district, then this plan would be implemented at all the elementary schools. Another parents said the class sizes expected for next year do not support the elimination or reallocation of a teacher.

"I think ultimately for them they're upset that the class sizes in Sanbornton are changing," Gagne said. "Sanbornton for a long time has had lower class numbers."

Still, Gagne said that in this economic climate, he doesn't feel the move is unreasonable.

The proposed plan would keep one first grade and one second grade class separate and combine the rest of the students in those two grades to form one multiage class. Gagne said they would be looking for volunteers to sign their children up for the multiage class before they start assigning students randomly. He said he has spoken with several parents who want their kids to experience a multiage classroom.

"There are people who embrace the multiage concept," Gagne said. "Some do, some don't I think we can accommodate both views."

Gagne said one benefit of a multiage class is that those children will have the same teacher for two years.

The first multiage class would start next September. Gagne said the current budget reflects the change.

At its Dec. 21 meeting, administrators will give a presentation about multiage classes. Gagne said they'd like to create a panel discussion with educators from schools that utilize the multiage model, though that will depend on whether enough teachers or administrators are available. There will be no public comment during the presentation, but there will be time allotted for public comment at the beginning and toward the end of the meeting.

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