Multiage still on the table

BC waits on decision to let budget take shape

The Bethlehem Central School District Board of Education will be including the issue of multiage and combination classrooms in its deliberations over the 2010-11 budget, meaning a final decision on the fate of that institution will be put on hold until the fiscal situation gains more clarity.

Superintendent Michael Tebbano at a Wednesday, Jan. 20, meeting of the school board presented the findings of a committee convened to study the. The issue of multiage classrooms came to the forefront last year, when a group of concerned Clarksville Elementary parents approached the district to protest the practice.

The committee found that multiage classrooms offer an adequate education, and students may in fact benefit from having a longer relationship with the teacher and interaction with older and younger peers.

We don't believe it's a substandard education, Tebbano said.

Multiage classrooms have been in use for many years in the district"the earliest instance being one room schoolhouses"though combination classrooms are more common now. Combination classrooms involve combining students from two grade levels primarily for budgeting purposes, while in multiage classrooms student are intended to stay with the same teacher two years in a row.

At one time, Tebbano said, there were at least four multiage classrooms in every elementary school. Today, there is just one at Glenmont Elementary.

As with most programming issues in recent months, financial concerns played a significant role in the analysis. Bringing multiage classrooms to every school could very well reduced the number of sections required and even out the student-to-teacher ratio across the district, Tebbano said. On the extreme end of this plan, the number of sections could be reduced from 98 to 83, something that the school board will consider as it examines budget proposals that include staff reductions.

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