Students at Utica schools facing large class sizes this school year

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) - This spring and summer, the big story at many local school districts was budget cuts and subsequent staff cuts.  As students prepare to go back to school in a few weeks, the big story will be large class sizes.

"Well, for elementary, we run a low of 25-26 and we run a high of 32-33.  Depending, it's pockets across the district. It's not across the board, but there are pockets of higher numbers that we're trying to address if we can," Utica school district's Director of Curriculum and Instruction Lori Eccleston said.

Eccleston says many classrooms are at or above the Utica Teachers Union suggested cap of 30 students per class. Utica mother Tina Silano is worried about her little boy is facing bigger class sizes when he starts kindergarten in a few weeks.

"He's 5 years old and he's going to be in a class with 32 kids or 30 kids and that's taking away from my son? That's not fair. That's not fair to any of the kids," says Silano. 

Eccleston says kindergarten classes should have 28 students, and that the district is making moves to foster control -- and learning --  in the larger classrooms. 

"We've hired some more teaching assistants that will assist  pushing in for AIS services and so forth in the district, which will help," says Eccleston.

The district, which grows every year, currently has an unprecedented 10,179 students expected this school year. Adding to the challenges of teaching such a large group with such a small staff -- an unusually large number of English as a second language kindergartners. 

"We had 238 new kindergarten ESL students register this summer alone. So those 238 kindergarten children will be absorbed into the district kindergarten program, so our kindergarten classes are ... they're high," says Eccleston, adding that recent student testing outcomes show that they're headed in the right direction.

"Scores have gone up in the district. We've made incremental gains. So we're doing the best we can with what we have".

Classes could grow even more as the school year progresses. Between October and June of last school year, the school registered an additional 300-400 students.

School starts Sept. 4.


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