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Copley-Fairlawn district parents raise class size concerns

8/29/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

During the Copley-Fairlawn City School District Board of Education’s last regular meeting prior to the start of a new school year Aug. 20, parents took the opportunity to express their concerns about the number of students expected in their children’s classrooms.

Other parents of second-graders at Ford Island Primary School may be shocked, as she was, when they find out classrooms in that grade will contain 27 students, said Barb Hinderegger, who has children in kindergarten and second grade at the school.

Her child’s second-grade classroom will contain 33 percent more students than at Arrowhead Primary School in second grade, she added.

“While we recognize that this does still meet the Copley Teachers Association agreement with you, we are concerned about the negative effects this can have on our students’ education,” she said.

Superintendent Brian Poe said he agrees 27 is “pushing the upper limit” in terms of class sizes.

His personal goal, as well as the administrative team’s goal, is to keep the number of students in kindergarten, first- and second-grade classrooms as low as possible, he added.

However, this year Herberich Primary School’s second-grade classes also will begin with 27 students, he said.

In addition, Arrowhead’s fourth-grade classes will have similar numbers, he noted.

These “bubble” classes have been the focus of numerous discussions over the past six months, Poe said.

To the several Fort Island parents of second-graders at the meeting, Poe told them special education has been increased in the building; an aide will be added to work with classes on a behavioral level; and a part-time licensed teacher will provide supplemental instruction in core subject areas at both Fort Island and Herberich.

Some families have chosen to exercise the interdistrict enrollment option, added Poe. Parents may enroll their children at another school in the district as long as the class they wish to enter has not reached the maximum number of students and parents are willing to provide their own transportation, he said.

While every year some classrooms in the district see the maximum number of students, the board does not promote full class sizes, said board member Kenneth Calderone.

“If we get to a point where we’re increasing the number of full classes, then we will be evaluating that as a board,” he added.

Tamara Prentiss said her daughter’s fourth-grade classroom at Arrowhead is expected to have 29 students, and she is concerned that number will top 30 with any late enrollees.

Poe assured her that would not happen.

“We aren’t going to get to 30,” he said, as new fourth-graders would be assigned to Fort Island, he added.

Setting class sizes is more art than science, noted Calderone, as abilities of particular teachers and students need to balance with the district’s budget.

For its part, the board promised it would not ask for levy increases more often than every five to eight years, said Calderone.

“To hire three teachers, it would increase the district over $200,000 a year,” he said.

While not opposed to spending that money, the consequence would be for voters to see another levy request sooner than expected, he added.

Also at the meeting, the board approved district policies for acceptable use and Internet safety for computer and online services for both staff and students.

In related action, the board added policies to the district books for a new Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) program. District officials have been working on adding the BYOT program for quite some time, said Poe.

For the first month of school, staff will test the network, and starting Sept. 23, the program will be implemented at the classroom level, according to Copley High School Principal Matt Young.

In other business, the board recalled staff from the reduction in force list, including teachers Laura Frank and Domenica Wiborg and tutors Rachel Knight and Ashley Pickering.

Resignations accepted included tutors Marisa Beavers, Meghan Kalil, John Kinsey, Veronica Stewart and Rebecca Weiland; teachers Meghan Nichols, Andrea Sanchez and Angela Sutter; and EMIS Coordinator Sandra Hebing.

Hebing, who has served the district for 25 years, will work her last day Jan. 1, 2014, Poe said.

Beavers was rehired as a third-grade long-term substitute at Herberich. Also hired, pending background and license checks, were Andrew Berwa, physical education teacher at Copley-Fairlawn Middle School (CFMS); Michele Calderone, part-time kindergarten teacher; Jennifer Fortin, gifted teacher at CFMS; and Kimberly Goldstein, first-grade teacher at Fort Island.

In other business, the board:

  • approved purchasing a 2014 Ford E-150 cargo van for up to $20,000 using the community University Education Purchasing Association Program; and
  • approved a $25 per semester parking fee for high school students. Poe said the fee has been the same for many years and the district does not make a profit on it.

The next board meeting is set for Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. at Copley High School, 3797 Ridgewood Road.

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