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Increase In Students A Hiccup In Redistricting Plan

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego City School District’s plan to balance elementary class sizes may have hit a slight bump in the road.

As part of the budget process, there were guidelines put in place for minimum and maximum class sizes, according to Superintendent Bill Crist.

For elementary, the minimum for grades K-2 is 20 with a maximum of 22. For grades 3-6, it is 23 – 25.

The district will have a dozen less elementary classrooms next school year; with a corresponding reduction (11) in elementary teaching staff.

“As a result of this cost-saving scenario, students who live on the fringe of our present elementary boundaries will move to other elementary schools next year,” the superintendent explained. “This will help balance those class sizes.”

The plan would mean slightly longer bus runs for some students, about 4 to 5 minutes on average, according to the superintendent.

Catherine Axtell lives on a road where her son will likely be moved to a new school in the fall.

“I was told I’m going to get a letter to tell me I’m going to get a letter to tell me he’s going to a different school. I went to my post office box this morning with no letter. So, I called down here. I was told I’d have that letter by the 22nd and my son would have a note on his report card on the 23rd,” she told the school board at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“If I don’t get to my post office box, I’m not going to know,” she continued. “He’s going to come home his last day of school and instead of the traditional go to Rudy’s and celebrate, we’re going to be finding out whether or not he’s going to be changing schools.”

She said that is “a dreadful way” to handle the situation.

It’s like telling her child they are moving to a different city, she added.

The children should come first, they need time to prepare, Axtell said.

She said she didn’t understand why the letter(s) couldn’t have gone out sooner.

That way, the students could go to school “and talk to their friends that they might not see again until middle school,” she said. “My son comes first. And, I am having a very difficult time with this.”

Crist said letters were mailed to all parents of elementary school age children explaining the plans for next year. The district will follow up on Friday by sending out specific letters to the families that are impacted by the plan, he said. They should receive the letters by Saturday or the very latest on Monday, he added.

“Worst case scenario, would be about a 36-hour opportunity for parents to talk to their child about the changes,” Crist said.

Currently, the plan affects 50 to 55 students at the elementary level. Most of the impact will be at Kingsford, Riley and Minetto elementary schools, according to the superintendent.

“As we continue to look at this we are actually finding it somewhat difficult to get to the balance that we were hoping for,” he pointed out.

In kindergarten and sixth grade, class sizes “are actually maxed out,” he said. “We have the maximum number of students in that grade level, and it looks like we will need to bring some additional staff off the layoff list to help meet those student needs.”

There has been a larger number of student enrollments over the last couple of weeks than historically what has been occurring in the district the last few years, Crist said.

“It’s still not summer yet, and we have some issues of maxing out our class sizes,” the superintendent told the board. “We may need to bring in some additional staffing to alleviate those conditions.”

First grade has also reached capacity at all five of the district’s elementary buildings, added Cathy Chamberlain, assistant superintendent of instruction and curriculum.

Kindergarten is maxed out at four elementary buildings. At Leighton, they have 61 students with 66 the maximum, she added.

“Typically, in the summertime is when we have a lot of parents coming in and registering their (elementary) children,” Chamberlain said.

In subsequent years, there may be a “more involved redistricting,” which might involve repurposing a school and displacing its population, the superintendent said.

The district will try to keep families together; but they can’t make any guarantees.