Smaller kindergarten classrooms bring relief |

Smaller kindergarten classrooms bring relief

by Teri Vance
Eduardo Arreola, 7, enjoys his spaghetti during lunch at Mark Twain Elementary on Wednesday. Elementary students throughout the Carson City School District returned to school this week. Arreola says his favorite part of school is eating.

After teaching kindergarten for eight years, Mark Twain Elementary School teacher Paula Baum had her “best first day ever” Wednesday.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “It was just glorious.”

Baum, who is used to having about 30 students in each of her classes, had between 17 and 20 for the first day.

“It was fantastic because you could give each child attention and you could move freely about the classroom,” she explained. “I could actually sit on the floor and do puzzles with them. With 30, you’re just tying shoes and redirecting all day.”

Mark Twain Elementary School received a grant this year to add a third kindergarten teacher, dividing the 115 students into six classrooms instead of four.

“They’re one of the fortunate ones,” said Mike Watty, associate superintendent in charge of education. “They did very well by adding the other section.”

Kindergarten students also enjoyed the first day. Robby Carmazzi, 5, played in the sandbox.

“We dug in the dirt until we found water,” he said. “We found water for the dinosaurs.”

Watty said he would like to see 24 to 26 students in each kindergarten classroom, but the schools do not have the necessary space.

Nevada law requires that school districts make a concerted effort to maintain a 15-students-to-1-teacher ratio in first and second grades and in at-risk kindergartens.

Last year, Carson City kindergartens had a ratio of 25.6 to 1.

“Districtwide, we’re looking good but some schools are up in the 29 to 30 range and that’s too crowded,” he said.

A 19-to-1 ratio is required in third grade.

Third-graders had a 19.1 to 1 ratio last year. Second-graders were at 15.1 to 1 and first-graders had a 15.2-to-1 ratio.

Fourth- and fifth-grades should have a 32 to 1 ratio.

Watty said it should even out.

“We’re comfortably full but we’re not exploding.”