Onteora moves to alleviate crowding in Woodstock

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

In order to alleviate overcrowded classrooms in grades-one-and-two at Woodstock Primary School, the Onteora district Board of Education voted unanimously to create three new teaching positions: one full-time teacher, one part time teacher, and one full time teaching assistant.

Not one of the dozen or so parents who attended the Tuesday, October 22 Board of Education meeting at Phoenicia Primary School spoke up during public commentary, as they were already anticipating that the board would approve school officials request to allow the creation of an additional classroom in grade-one and add more staff to grade two.

Parents had previously circulated a petition seeking a change in classroom size that was presented and discussed at a PTA meeting at Woodstock Primary School on October 22.


After that, Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill met with parents, teachers and the Woodstock principal the following week, intent on mapping out a plan. She apologized for the overflowing class sizes and explained that between August 30 and October 16, nine new students moved into the Woodstock area. Currently, Woodstock’s first grade has three classrooms: two with 25 students and one with 26 students. There are four students within this population with special education needs. An additional student is anticipated to move into the district in January. McGill requested a fourth classroom in this grade level.

In Woodstock’s grade-two there are two classrooms with 24 and 25 students. McGill said many in the class of 25 children had “significant needs,” which had parents and the classroom teacher concernd. Within that classroom, six students have behavior plans and one student has special needs requiring a one-to-one teaching assistant. There are also several children requiring remedial help. Based on those factors, McGill requested additional staff. During the past summer, the board created a budget line item in the event additional hires for this purpose were needed.

Trustee Rob Kurnit, however, brought up the subject that no one likes to hear — redistricting. “I brought it up in the past,” he said. “What you are saying is that you really need to do this, it needs to be done now, and then [redistricting] will be revisited in terms of the overall program?”

McGill said, “correct,” and discussed the possibility of creating a geographic “soft zone,” in order to level out classroom size between Phoenicia and Woodstock schools. Phoenicia Primary School currently has two-grade-one classrooms, with 22 students in each and two-grade-two classrooms each with 17 students.