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NNCS school board members ask for smaller class sizes

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NORFOLK - With some class sizes projected to go above 30 students in 2014-15, some board of education members say those numbers are too high.

“What I would personally like to see is 25,” board Vice President Jonathan Hunkins told Superintendent James M. Cruikshank during a budget work session this week.

According to Mr. Cruikshank’s calculations, two sections of fourth grade would have 32 students each, while a third section would have 33 students next year unless another teacher was added. With an additional teacher, those numbers would drop down to 24 students each in two sections and 25 students each in the other two sections.

Looking at the current projected enrollment for pre-kindergarten through grade six, the situation wouldn’t ease up any in the years ahead, according to Mr. Hunkins. Mr. Cruikshank has projected 54 students in pre-kindergarten, 90 students in kindergarten, 91 students in first grade, 89 students in second grade, 84 students in third grade, 98 students in fourth grade, 81 students in fifth grade and 66 students in sixth grade.

“The numbers are just going to get worse,” necessitating the addition of another teacher, Mr. Hunkins said.

He wondered if they could look at taking a teacher from the secondary level to fill the gap at the kindergarten through sixth-grade level. But, Mr. Cruikshank said, that would be difficult because of certification and tenure issues.

“We’re looking at our programs at the secondary level (as part of the budget discussions),” Mr. Cruikshank said.

“It’s getting very inflexible because of the number of shared staff we have. Our next step is to look at programming. With the current governor’s proposal, I don’t know how we can keep our current level of programming” without a solid infusion of money from the district’s fund balance, he said. “We have a supervisor’s meeting Thursday. We were going to start that discussion.”

Mr. Cruikshank said, if they added a teacher, there would need to be a “trade-off” to help balance their 2014-15 budget.

However, the superintendent said, he understood the need to add another teacher to combat the class size increases.

“Providing additional support by reducing class size would help. Lisa (Mitras, business manager) and I will crunch the numbers and get the elementary to (grade) six at 25 or less. We’ll look at keeping it below 25 for now. The reason I say for now is because we’ve got some work to do,” he said.

The class size discussion came after four teachers had approached the board this week about adding another fourth-grade teacher because of the current class sizes and anticipated sizes next year. The fourth grade currently has class sizes of 28, 27 and 26 students.

Their current tax levy limit, according to Mr. Cruikshank, is $6,148,490, which is a 0.51 percent increase over their 2013-14 tax levy. That 0.51 percent increase would bring in $31,038, he said.

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