NA Patch: North Allegheny Parents Express Frustration over Class Sizes, Fear about Possible School Closings

Posted: October 1, 2012 in Press Coverage
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Parents demand formation of a community task force to tackle both issues

By Richard Cook, NA Patch
September 26, 2012

For the second time this month, the North Allegheny School board got an earful from elementary school parents who say they are frustrated by increasing class sizes and fearful the board will close at least one elementary school.

At the most recent meeting Sept. 19, more than a half-dozen parents waited nearly two hours to address the board at the end of its regular agenda.

“My daughter goes to Hosack Elementary. Her class has 32 students,” Bill Lungren told the board.

“I had a chance to visit her classroom the other week, and I noticed there was hardly any room to move around,” Lungren said. “The desks were practically stacked on top of each other. Were these rooms designed by the original architect to handle this many students?”

School board member Linda Bishop said the district has increased class sizes to help balance its current budget.

“We’re now at the point where some very difficult decisions are going to have to be made, and one of those already this year was to float some of the class sizes,” Bishop said. “We didn’t furlough any teachers. We simply didn’t replace some teachers who retired.”

Kevin Mahler, who said he was speaking on behalf of a group of concerned parents, said he believes class size will inevitably impact the quality of education for the children of North Allegheny.

“As the cliché says, perception is reality, and there is an overwhelming perception that people like smaller class sizes, especially parents when they are choosing a school district,” he said.

Mahler said he wants the district to clearly define a policy and set limits for class sizes, particularly in the elementary schools.

“North Hills has a clear maximum (class size) of 23 students in K-2 and 25 students in grades 3-5. We often get compared in my neighborhood because you can live across the street from each other and be in either North Allegheny or North Hills (districts). That’s not a selling point anymore.”

Amanda Hartle, communications coordinator for the North Hills School Districtclarified that in grades K-1, that district’s maximum class size is 20 students per class with a single teacher, or 23 students with a teacher and a teaching assistant. In grades 2-3, the maximum is 23 students per class with a single teacher, and 25 students with a teacher and teaching assistant.

In grades 4-6 at North Hills, the maximum is 25 students per class with a single teacher, or 27 with a teacher and a teaching assistant.

Many North Allegheny parents also expressed the desire for the board to form a community task force to discuss solutions to larger classes as well as the recommendation last month from consulting firm Thomas & Williamson that Peebles Elementary be closed to equalize elementary enrollment.

“Let’s work to find lasting solutions and not Band-Aids to our budgetary problems,” said Chris Disque, a North Allegheny parent.

Before the board can vote to close a school, it must hold at least one public hearing, advertised at least 15 days in advance. The board cannot vote for at least three months after the hearing.

Board President Maureen Grosheider said the board will have new demographic data at its next meeting that could potentially impact recommendations about any potential school closings. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 24.

http://northallegheny.patch.com/articles/north-allegheny-parents-express-frustration-over-increased-elementary-school-class-sizes

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