Seeliger kindergarten teachers say large class sizes not fair to children | NevadaAppeal.com

Seeliger kindergarten teachers say large class sizes not fair to children

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer

Kindergarten teachers Lorie Schaefer and Sydney Hannon are extremely busy this time of year.

With morning and afternoon classes replete with the largest kindergarten enrollment in the Carson City School District, the women have about 55 report cards and parent-teacher conferences for which to prepare.

But what worries them is not their heavy workload, which they must work evenings and weekends to handle.

Nor is it the perceived inequity with other kindergarten teachers in the district; Empire Elementary School has 17 students per kindergarten teacher, by comparison.

What worries them is that their students are being short-changed.

“My feeling is, it’s not fair to the kids,” said Hannon. “It’s hard to do the reading you want to do and give the kids the education they deserve with that many kids. It’s not that we can’t handle it. It’s not fair to the kids.”

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Hannon has 27 students in her morning class and 28 in the afternoon. Schaefer has 27 students in the morning and 29 in the afternoon. Between them, they average 27.3 students to one teacher.

“I’m frustrated for the kids because it can’t be as happy and as good and as nurturing as it should be when there’s that many kids,” said Schaefer.

They both have aides, but so do all kindergarten teachers. Additionally, they say they have problems with too little space.

“It’s hard to exercise in class,” Schaefer said. “It’s hard to give students the gross-motor skills experience they need. They have to get up and wiggle, but they bump into furniture.”

According to data provided at Tuesday’s school board meeting by Mike Watty, associate superintendent for education services for the district, the average student-to-teacher ratio in kindergarten is 21:1.

Bordewich-Bray averages 24.8:1, followed by Fritsch at 23:1, Fremont at 19.5:1 and Mark Twain at 17.8:1.

Over the years, the Legislature has aimed its class-size reduction funding at districts with kindergarten through third grade classes with 15:1 ratios. But the reality, according to Doug Thunder, deputy superintendent for administration and fiscal services for the state department of education, is a little different.

Districts will receive class-size-reduction funding based on 16:1 ratios in first and second grade and 19:1 ratios in third grade, he said, with little money coming in for kindergarten at all.

“It’s very minimal, the funding that is provided for kindergarten teachers,” said Thunder.

Districts not meeting those requirements can fill out a waiver as a matter of explanation and still receive funding. Over the years, Carson City has received approximately 45.4 percent of its early elementary salaries and benefits for teachers through class-size-reduction funding.

n Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.