Class-size controversy in Elmbrook School District

CREATED Sep 7, 2012

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BROOKFIELD -  A "class-size controversy" at one school district - just months after a school was closed.

Hillside Elementary was closed because of budgets and shrinking attendance.

But now parents are frustrated because of over-crowded classrooms  "We have voiced our concern on that and hoping that  they'd add another teacher," said parent Jackie Smith.

Jackie Smith's concerned about her daughter's fifth grade class.

It's one of four at Swanson Elementary pushed to it's maximum size.

"I certainly don't like that there are 30 kids in the class."

The school added nearly 60 students in the past two and a half months forcing the district to add "sections".

Tonawanda Elementary is in similar shape.

"So we're going to look at whether those are permanent students or if it's a one year kind of anomaly," said Keith Brightman, assistant superintendent of finance, budget and human resources at Elmbrook's School District.

The hike in enrollment comes on the heels of Hillside Elementary's closure this spring.

District leaders consolidated for budget reasons.

Brightman said the closing of Hillside did not directly impact Swanson and Tonawanda's class sizes.

Parent's aren't so sure.

Brookfield Elementary absorbed students from Hillside.  But redistricting sent some Brookfield students to Swanson.

Jackie Smith understood Hillside's closing.  But she fears the district failed to address the impact it would have on other classrooms.  "We're adding 50, 60, 100 kids to your school, but we're not hiring any more teachers," she said.

The district budgeted for six "place holder" teaching positions for possible changes in enrollment.  It ended up having to add more but did so at the younger class levels which are priority for smaller class sizes.

In fifth grade classes it will add an assistant after exploring the options, said Brightman.

"Usually those are qualified teachers in those positions in our district so that's a very viable solution given that they're just above our max thresholds."

Not all parents find that an acceptable solution.

They'll get to voice their concerns at a school board meeting next Tuesday night.