GERMANTOWN–The Board of Education of the Germantown Central School District decided at its July 13 meeting that the school needs three kindergarten classes this year, not the usual two.
With 45 children enrolled for kindergarten so far—“it’s always possible to get more,” said Jeanne Dolamore, elementary school principal—the board was looking at two options: two kindergarten classes, each with 23 students and a full-day teacher’s aide, or three kindergarten classes (two with 15 students and one with 16).
Superintendent Susan Brown had researched class sizes back 15 years. “We had 23 kindergartners in a class many years ago—classes were large then in general,” she reported. “Today it’s not ideal to have that many 4- and 5-year olds in a class. Back then, children took naps and the curriculum was different.”
“We have a beautiful program now,” said Ms. Dolamore. “Kids are reading and writing at the end of the year. Still, she said, even though almost all of the incoming children have been in a pre-k program, “the social and emotional piece has increased more than ever—toileting, behavioral issues. It’s different from the kindergarten we all remember,” she said
Both Ms. Dolamore and Ms. Brown further recalled the noticeable change in kindergarten between the time their first child and their youngest starting school.
For statistical context, in 2015-16 the school had two sections of kindergarten, each with fewer than 20 students. A total of 39 students graduated from Germantown in 2016. But in the school year ahead the district will have 70 fifth-graders.
The board consensus was for three sections; the question was how to staff the third section. Ideally, board consensus was to hire an additional teacher. But that expense—about $81,000, including fringe benefits—is not in the district’s 2016-17 budget.
The board then approved reassigning an existing teacher, kindergarten-certified, to the third section and hiring a part-time teacher’s aide for about $12,000, with no benefits. This aide will supervise students in the computer lab during keyboarding, in that move that frees up a teacher.
In other business:
• Ms. Brown announced that three Germantown seniors will attend the new Bard in Hudson Civic Engagement Academy for the 2016-17 academic year. This is a pilot half-day program, free to the district. The students will use existing transportation to Hudson, the bus that goes to Questar III BOCES.
The Bard program takes place at Warren Street Academy, 11 Warren Street in Hudson. Classrooms were created with a grant from the Galvan Foundation, which is working with the Bard College Center for Civic Engagement. Eligible students had to qualify for college-level courses and can earn college credits.
Students will take a Bard humanities seminar; one elective in STEM, arts, social sciences or humanities; and workshops in writing, college planning and civic engagement/community service.
The district has made no commitment past the pilot program, but board members said they looked forward to reports on the experience from the three students
• Tammi Kellenbenz was reelected board president, and Donald Coons was elected vice-president, during the organization meeting
• The board’s regular meeting continues to be the second Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. Special meetings were set for August 24, September 28 and October 26, 2016; January 25, March 22, April 26, May 24 and June 28, 2017
• Board committees are as follows: Buildings and Grounds: Kellenbenz, Coons, Ralph DelPozzo; Curriculum: Kellenbenz, Lester Olsson, Teresa Repko; Policy: Kellenbenz, Jeremy Smith Andrea Provan. Committees meet on a rotating basis before the regular board meeting, beginning Wednesday, September 14 with the Buildings & Grounds Committee at 5:30 p.m.