U-46 to Shrink Some Classes Elementary Classrooms in At-Risk Schools Will Have Fewer Students

By Malone, Tara | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

U-46 to Shrink Some Classes Elementary Classrooms in At-Risk Schools Will Have Fewer Students


Malone, Tara, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Tara Malone Daily Herald Staff Writer

Taking what many parents call a step in the right direction, Elgin Area School District U-46 officials on Tuesday said they will limit how many children fill elementary classrooms.

In some schools.

Fifteen of the district's most academically endangered schools will cap kindergarten, first- and second-grade classes at 25 students, down from the current average of 30 kids.

Relief will come for six of the 15 schools where standardized test scores dipped low enough to land them on the state's academic watch list in 2002-2003. There, class size for third- through sixth-grade will be pegged at 28 students.

"I'm definitely more comfortable with the prospect of 25 students in my daughter's kindergarten class than 30," Coleman Elementary parent Sue Reynolds said. "It puts me a little more at ease."

Such relief did not extend to all corners of U-46.

The district's remaining 25 elementary schools will adhere to a 30-student class average, a limit U-46 administrators say they plan to strictly enforce.

Elementary schools slated to receive more than 30 students next fall will be afforded an extra teacher to fill a second classroom. But they will not see classes shrink to 25 or 28 children at any grade level.

That would be too costly, district officials say.

The two-punch effect of leveling classes at 30 kids and lowering class sizes in at-risk schools will cost $1.3 million, funds largely drawn from a $1 million federal grant typically reserved for teacher training. That will pay the salaries of 26 additional teachers.

If the district shaved classes by one student in all 40 elementary schools, bringing the average down to 29, it would cost $2.1 million, Chief Financial Officer John Prince said.

"We're taking a very cautious approach. We felt reallocating existing funds was less risky than assuming new dollars would materialize," Prince said.

Until extra dollars appear, U-46 officials say they will focus on schools where students face the greatest academic odds: poverty and a new language.

Parkwood Elementary is one such school.

Half of the 440 students at the Hanover Park school are new to English; Nearly 65 percent come from lower-income families. Low test scores last year required that Parkwood give parents the option of moving kids to a better-performing U-46 school. …

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