Under the shadow of limited electric power due to weather related downed lines, the Onteora Central School District Board of Education, at its January 7 meeting, approved a resolution, a last minute addendum to the agenda that would add an additional grade-two classroom at Woodstock Primary School for the purpose of easing up overcrowding. Currently, there are two second grade classrooms consisting of 23 and 24 students respectively, that fall within policy guidelines of a maximum of 25 students. But the situation is unique, the arguments say, given a larger than usual population in those classrooms of special education students and students needing remedial help. The three classrooms that will soon exist will each have 15-to-16 students, thus aligning similarly with Phoenicia Primary School classroom size. Additionally, because of the use of computer equipment, classroom physical space has become limited.
“I do not want to Monday morning quarterback this if the students don’t do well,” said Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill. “I know that the board, myself and everyone here is committed to the well being of our students.” Parents have been attending Board meetings complaining about this situation for nearly a year.
McGill said that next year when the children enter third grade, there may not be three classrooms. “We may possibly have more movement in and out because we are noticing some mobility issues that go along with that, so I don’t want this to be precedent setting.”
To bring in a fulltime teacher for the remainder of the year will cost approximately $45,000 including benefits. A certified teacher who is currently teaching at Woodstock part time and will be asked to join fulltime.
“It’s important that we are all aware of each student’s needs because it’s not always about the number of students in each classroom, and times have changed,” said School Board President Ann McGillicuddy. “Our classrooms physically are not as large as would be desirable now because there’s a lot of equipment and a lot of extra grown-ups in the classrooms, depending on students needs. It wasn’t like this when these buildings were built.”
For the purpose of studying current educational needs for younger students, including classroom size, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Marki Clair-O’Rourke presented an outlined proposal that would create a committee to study what would make an effective primary school. This committee would study learning styles in the 21st century including classroom size in lower grades and the best use of facilities. Representation will include the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, Director of Pupil Personnel, both Primary school principals, Intermediate school principal, two trustees, teachers and four parents (two from each primary school).
In other news…
- McGill announced that the Middle/High School library has over 1400 E-books to offer, accessible to a student’s personal computer. iPad minis are available for students to check out.
- At Woodstock Primary School, officials made changes to student arrival and dismissal procedures based upon recommendations through a safety audit. New gates and fencing have also been installed.
- To date the school district has used five out of seven allowed snow days. McGill said, “I just want to remind everyone that the purpose of snow-days is to keep the children safe.” If the district exceeds the seven days, a Friday before Presidents day will be used to make up the lost day, followed by a shortened spring break.
- School officials were given legal advice that curriculum based field trips during school time must be funded through the district budget. McGill said, “This includes that (annual) Washington D.C. trip taken by seventh grade class…” In the past, McGill said, it was up to individual students, who may or may not have been able to raise enough funds to pay for the field trip. She said there is money in the budget to pay for trip this year but “will plan accordingly in years forward.”
- Bennett principal Gabriel Buono said the local community is using the building for after school programs in art, music and physical education, and other community programs. “With our frigid weather,” said Buono, “I’m very happy to report that this building has become more of a community for after-after school activities every night. We have basketball and soccer happening…it’s great to see this building used from 8 in the morning to 8 in the evening.”