Lincoln Elementary has seen a spike in kindergarteners such that class sizes have swelled up to 30 and 31 students, and so the school leaders and teachers have opted to create a combined, 24-student kindergarten and first-grade class.
Principal Karen Hughes explained that the teachers have attempted to manage the oversized classes, but the extra load has proved less than ideal such that this extra class was deemed needed. Hughes and the teachers realized that reducing the classes would require moving students after they have become somewhat attached to their teachers and peers. So part of the change will require careful conversation with parents to assure that this move is what’s best for all of the children, and that those children moved into the new class will still share music, art, and physical education with their other friends.
On the practical side, the four kindergarten and first grades will each be donating students to the new class, reducing their individual classes and adding to the new class that is being offered as a one-year position. The position will then be reevaluated next year based on student enrollment.
“We want to make a cohesive group,” Hughes said.
Board members praised Hughes and her team for making a careful analysis. They said it was clear to them that Hughes and her staff will be thorough in deciding how to make selections that will work best for students and whoever is hired to teach the class. They voted 4-0 to add the new position that will be posted immediately with a salary commensurate with the teachers’ seniority. Board member Tina Seeley was absent.
For the most part, Hughes said parents are aware that the current class size structure is not a suitable learning environment given the needs of all the children.
“Parent communication will be our No. 1 priority,” Hughes noted of the selections for the new class.
The job will be posted immediately with the salary to be commensurate with the teachers’ seniority.
In the end, Hughes said the decision about how to resolve any issue has to be resolved around “what’s best for kids.” “Our teachers take this seriously,” Hughes said. “They are all masters at classroom management, but even so, trying to keep 31 5-year-olds together … someone is going to fall through the cracks.”
In other business, the board voted to revise its budget to accommodate for the 1.06 percent state-endorsed pay increase for continuing teachers. Of some 200 teachers in the district, 176 will be eligible to share just over $94,000, with raises that will start at about $400. The raises will be distributed in December.
The board also approved two field trips, one to Disneyland in Anaheim April 12-15 for the band, orchestra and choir, with about 200 students expected to go on the trip that will cost about $400 each. All three groups will be performing during the trip. Tax credits can be used to offset the costs, with those credits able to come from anyone in the community not just family members.
The second trip will be for the 18-member jazz band, as well as chaperones, to Claremont, California. For the second year, orchestra members will be working with artist Jim Linahon, the founder and CEO of JL Music. They will then work in a studio where they will record six or seven songs that will be combined with last year’s musical selections into a CD to be sold the spring of 2019. The trip is expected to cost about $50 per student. The $5,000 studio fee is to be covered through tax credits.
“This is a fantastic legacy,” board member Maureen Erickson said of the program.