District weighs merged classes

Nisky’s first budget forum focuses on class size, multi-grade courses

— Some members of the public were concerned about children being combined in the K-1 classroom, because there would possibly be too large of a gap between learning level differences.

Deborah Shea, assistant superintendent for Educational Programs and Instruction, said pre-testing would allow students to be grouped together properly.

She said in terms of literacy, there are students in kindergarten and first grade students similar to each other. She said many children coming into kindergarten are ready to read, but some children in first grade aren’t ready to read and the kindergarten curriculum would suit those students.

Shawn Bushway, a University at Albany professor and parent of a Glencliff student, said combination classes aren’t “educationally the right thing to do.”

“It was not presented this year, or last year, as an educational solution. It was presented as a solution to a budget problem,” Bushway said.

Instead of combination classes, he said he would support increased class sizes.

“The problem I think here is it is a choice between who wins and who loses,” said Bushway. “If you go to a big class everybody sort of loses a little. If you go to combo classes some people lose a lot, some kids actually gain. … I would rather have everybody lose a little bit than some kids lose a lot and other kids benefit.”

He said closing one of the elementary schools should also be presented as an option, because the small schools lead to a “lumpy” distribution of class sizes.

“It is hard to talk about closing schools, but it is something … that should be on the table,” he said.

Despite concerns expressed over the combined classes, resident Aliza Mesbahi spoke in support of the proposal.

“Combination classes used to be done routinely … it was a great thing,” Mesbahi said. “I keep hoping they will do a four-five split again at Hillside.”

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