Parents of Tuscan Third Grade Students Express Concerns About Class Size

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Several parents of third grade Tuscan students attended the August 24 South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education meeting to voice concerns about class size.

Two of the parents spoke with two other parents ceding their time.

The parents were responding to potential plans by the district to go from six to five classrooms for the 130-some students now enrolled at the third grade level — potentially creating a per-class amount of 26 students per classroom, a number that exceeds the district’s own standards.

One mother of a Tuscan third grader told the Board that she recognized that the decision was “linked to money” and said she was willing to mobilize parents to go to Trenton to advocate for more funding. However, in the short term, said the Tuscan mother, “we’re looking at five overcrowded classrooms for 130-plus children. We’re close to district mass. If they lose a class, will be at 26 per class and exceed district guidelines.” She asked, “How can teachers be expected to foster an exciting learning environment?” The parent added, “We need a well thought-out plan for dealing with it.”

The father of a Tuscan third grader told the Board of Education that they had “dropped the ball” in dealing with the larger class size during redistricting several years back. “This is absolutely not right for the kids to have class sizes that exceed your own class size guidelines,” said the Tuscan dad.

During his Superintendent report at the beginning of the meeting, Dr. John Ramos briefly addressed the issue by stating, “We are watching enrollment closely across the district, and paying particular attention to those grades and schools which are approaching the upper limit of class size policy, including the 3rd grade at Tuscan. We will determine if additional sections are necessary in any schools before school starts. For classes that are on the higher end of the class size policy, we will look at how we can support them so that they can best promote students’ success.”

Board member and Policy and Monitoring Committee Chair Elizabeth Baker also addressed the issue later in the meeting during her committee report.

“We did discuss class-size policy with respect to Tuscan 3rd grade,” said Baker, who indicated that, should the district decide to go with larger class size than recommended by district policy, it “requires a determination by class as to what is being done to ensure teaching quality if we are going over that limit.” Baker added, “We are making that inquiry and will report back to the board.”

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