WESTFIELD, NJ — Several parents raised concerns about first-grade class sizes at Tamaques Elementary during the school board meeting Tuesday night.
“This year, we had an average of 26 students per class in first grade,” said Lauren Casciano, one parent who spoke during the meeting. “Obviously, it’s not good educationally for our children, especially for a foundational year.”
Casciano and other parents advocated for the addition of a fifth section to reduce class size.
“We just really want to make sure that, going forward, we can make sure those class sizes are smaller,” Casciano said. “Right now, there’s four [sections], we would need five to make sure those class sizes are down.”
Superintendent Margaret Dolan said year-to-year fluctuations in enrollment are partly to blame for larger class sizes.
“Some years, you have what we had this year, where we had an unusually large class enrollment for first grade in one school, Tamaques. And in another first grade in a different school, we had an unusually low number,” Dolan said. “In some districts, they would just ship some of those students over to the other school.”
Dolan said the district would not reassign students to other schools based on space, but has asked families who register late if they would consider sending their students to a school in a different neighborhood.
“Honestly, that often doesn’t work,” Dolan said. “We try, but we don’t force them to do this.”
Dolan also explained that class sizes for academic subjects are not 26 pupils, but that the number of students in a classroom could reach 26 for certain subjects.
“The class sizes are not 26,” Dolan said. “If you add some students who come in for certain subjects, it may get to 26, but that is not the average size of the actual classes there for the academic subjects.”
If enrollment does not decrease for next year, Dolan said the district will add a fifth section for second grade.
“If the numbers stay the same or go up, I’ve already spoke with the business administrator that we will need another section for second grade,” Dolan said. “We will look, but I don’t know where the numbers are going to go.”
“I would look to make sure for next year, that there is not a class of 25,” she added. “If there’s even one class of 25, then we should look to decrease it.”