For a time at the school board meeting Nov. 8, it looked as though the District #138 School Board might not approve a plan to address higher than expected enrollment this school year.
However, the school board eventually came to a decision and approved the aforementioned plan 5-1.
School board member Trent Jensen cast the dissenting vote.
At the beginning of the meeting, Superintendent Deb Henton explained the plan calls for adding support positions at Sunrise River School, conducting professional development opportunities for staff – especially in the area of secondary math – and adding some technology for learning intervention.
The total cost of the plan is $200,000.
Sunrise River Elementary Principal Jason Hartmann addressed the support positions at the meeting.
He explained one of the positions would be a half time, afternoon teacher.
That person would start out working with third grade students in either reading or math.
Hartmann said the candidate’s strengths would be assessed, and based on those strengths, he or she would be placed in the math or reading block to help students.
“We want to take the best candidate possible and put that candidate with the students,” he said.
Hartmann then explained the second position would be a full-time paraprofessional who would work with the kindergarten classes.
He noted the paraprofessional would not be required to have a teaching license.
District #138 Community Relations Coordinator Pat Tepoorten said the district is looking to fill the two positions at Sunrise “immediately.”
Desire to reduce class sizes
Jensen said he had been opposed to the plan since it was discussed in prior workshop meetings because it doesn’t do enough to address class sizes district-wide.
“I am not in favor of the plan, specifically because of student/teacher ratios,” he said. “My problem with this plan is last year we let go 6.5 teachers, which is about 6 percent of our teachers. Last year we had a student/teacher ratio that was just under 30 kids, on average.”
Jensen then proposed the board use $300,000 of the over $1 million in unexpected revenue it has this year because of higher enrollment to hire back those teachers.
School board members Randy Westby and John White initially agreed with Jensen before hearing the presentation by Hartmann.
Before voting to approve the plan, Westby said it isn’t ideal.
“I don’t entirely agree with the hiring back of six teachers – I think there is a happy medium,” he said. “We could address some of the class size issues, and also technology and intervention.”
White echoed Westby’s opinion, but said it was good the district is doing something that will help its students.
“I guess what my comment would be after hearing from principal Hartmann is at least we’re making some strides,” he said. “I’d rather spend something now and get some good out of this.”