CANTON The impact of staff cuts is being felt at Cantons Banford Elementary School, where the average first-grade class size has increased from 17 students last year to 26.
Elun T. Gabriel, a father of a first-grader, told the Board of Education on Thursday hes concerned the large class size will be detrimental for young children as they begin reading.
Im really worried for kids just learning to read. A lot of parents are concerned, he said. Ideally, wed like to see another teacher.
Mr. Gabriel, an associate professor at St. Lawrence University, said the board could consider adding a teachers assistant to each of the first-grade classrooms. As part of the boards budget cuts last spring, the number of sections decreased from five to four in each of the elementary grade levels.
First grade is feeling the impact the hardest because it has more students than the other grade levels. Unless students leave or more teachers are added, the class size for that grade level will remain high as the children move into higher grade levels.
This year, kindergarten, second- and third-grade classrooms average 21 pupils. Fourth grade has an average of 24 students while fifth has 25.
Class sizes in grades six to eight range from 21 to 27 students, depending on the subject and grade level, said Principal Jennifer Rurak.
Its what we predicted with the loss in state aid, said board President Barbara B. Beekman. Its not ideal.
Banford Principal Joseph McDonough said 28 elementary students left the district this summer while 40 new ones enrolled, resulting in a net gain of 12 children. The new students include three additional first-graders.
First grade has 104 students, while kindergarten, second and third each have 83. Fourth grade has 94.
Margaret Meg Metcalf, a McKenney Middle School teacher in Canton who has a first-grader, said having 26 first-graders in a classroom is much different than having that many students in a ninth-grade class.
Its almost unconscionable, Mrs. Metcalf said. Im hoping for some kind of reassurance that you will at least try to find a way to resolve this.
At neighboring Potsdam Central School, the average first-grade class size is 19 students, while Massena Central School averages between 19 and 20 youngsters.
St. Marys School, Canton, has eight children in its first-grade class.