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Reading teachers assigned to Canton’s first grade classes; parents continue to voice concerns about large class sizes

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CANTON - Responding to concerns about large first-grade class sizes, reading teachers at Banford Elementary School have been assigned to spend an extra 40 minutes each day working in the school’s first grade classrooms.

Several parents have voiced concerns about the first-grade class size increasing from an average of 17 students last year to 26 this year.

Banford Principal Joseph D. McDonough said each of the four first grade teachers will team up with a reading teacher for 40 minutes a day which is in addition to the 40 minutes allocated to each class for students who need remedial reading help.

Jon Rosales and his wife, Matilda Larsen, 63 Buck St., said their son, Jacob, has already been impacted by having 25 children in his first grade class.

“Children in large classes are likely to be more off task and have less contact with the teacher,” the couple said in a letter to the school board. “The habit of being off task particularly troubles us. If this habit becomes entrenched at a young age, it may continue throughout our son’s life. Jacob has already mentioned to us several times that his class is too loud, and he can’t concentrate on his work.”

The couple cited studies showing that students who were in small classes in early grades do better academically in future grades compared to counterparts who started their education in larger classes.

The couple said they were willing to give up their Basic Star property tax reduction to that the money could go to the school budget. They also planned to volunteer to help out in the classroom.

Ms. Larsen encouraged school board members and Superintendent William A. Gregory to spend time in the first-grade classroom so they could understand the challenge of teaching 26 young children.

Mr. McDonough said he believes teaming up first-grade teachers with reading teachers will be effective. Three of the classes have 26 students while one class has 25.

“Even though the class size is larger they will still get individual attention in small groups,” Mr. McDonough said. “I think it will evolve as the year goes on and the teams get closer. I think we have a solid direction.”

Parent volunteers and tutors from St. Lawrence University may be able to assist with math and other subjects.

Mindy M. Backus, an elementary reading teacher at Gouverneur Central, said she wants assurance that the district will consider reducing classroom sizes in the future so that the existing first-grade class doesn’t end up with large class sizes each year.

“This really needs to be fixed for next year,” Mrs. Backus said.

Ann Marie G. Halstead, another mother of a first grader, said she was concerned about both students and teachers. She also submitted a letter to the school board.

“I believe we should set up both our students and our educators to be successful. In an already challenging and stressful climate with potentially low morale, let’s show our amazing faculty that we support them, that we’re willing to make it possible for them to do their good work,” she wrote.

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