FULTON, NY – The Fulton School District Board of Education will be reaching out to a consultant for assistance in a study regarding class sizes at the elementary level.
In a regular board meeting at the end of the school year, class sizes for the four elementary schools for next year were presented.
The board was asked for permission to conduct a study into these numbers and possible outcomes for remedying the issues.
The problem being: imbalance among the four different elementary schools in enrollment numbers.
While Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch assures that overall enrollment numbers have remained relatively stable, certain schools are falling well below normal in terms of average class size.
“Volney is our school that is most diminishing,” Lynch said at the July 15 board meeting. “In the 1990s we had a steady population of around 80 students per section. Today, we have about 40 students per section at that school.”
The schools follow certain parameters in their class sizes.
“We keep our class sizes to no more than 25 students per class, and we prefer to have less than that in the primary level,” Lynch explained.
With class sizes of 25 and a total of 3 classrooms per grade level that would equal an approximate of 75 students per grade, a far cry from the mere 40 being tallied at Volney.
“Volney right now is seeing less than 50 students in a variety of grade levels. Granby currently has 47 in one grade level. Lanigan also has no more than 50 students in a few grade levels as well,” Lynch said.
Which, in turn, brings to light an issue with staffing.
With such low number of students, there is less need for as many teachers that are currently employed.
“We have made a few reductions, dropping a few sections by one teaching staff or not refilling a retirement. We’ve done this as a practice over time. We have to balance our educational quality with the financial support our community needs to supply. There was a time where that wouldn’t be necessary, but fiscally we are being pressed and there’s not much choice,” said Lynch.
In discussion of the study, a variety of remedies have been brought forth.
Lynch likes to keep in mind, “We don’t have a predetermined plan. When we are dealing with these issues, we see many different possible solutions.”
One of these possible solutions is reestablishing the transfer bus system that the schools once used.
“The problem with that was that it was starting to have an impact on the time of the instructional day. Financially it was not expensive for our taxpayers because it was reimbursed to us. But, it did cost our students in their instructional day and that is precious,” said Lynch.
While the four catchment areas of the district have been in place since 1990/1991 and have remained very consistent, redrawing these areas is another possible solution.
One of the most largely discussed solutions is the possible realignment of the elementary schools to incorporate east side and west side of the city.
In this case, the buildings that are on the same side of the river, currently referred to as sister schools, would combine all students for that side of town and would reestablish grade levels to be kindergarten through third grade in one building and fourth grade through sixth grade in the other.
Board member Barbara Hubbard brought forth an extensive list of concerns with this plan that would need to be considered and thought through at length.
“There are so many little pieces of the puzzle that would go into this happening that I just think a lot of people wouldn’t consider,” said Hubbard.
Board member Christine Plath added that “an extra transition would be not advantageous for students” and urged the board to make sure this study is conducted thoroughly and correctly before any action is taken.
“Once we make a decision, there is no going back so we need to make sure we involve everyone and do this right,” Plath said.
The board agreed to look into an outside consultant to help conduct the study and also to organize a citizen advisory committee to involve parents, students, staff and community members.