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Greensburg Salem parents worried about second-grade class sizes

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 12:58 a.m.

Two parents expressed concerns to Greensburg Salem school directors on Wednesday about the effects too many children in second-grade classes at Robert F. Nicely Elementary School might have on the students' learning.

Research shows the formative years of a child's education and teacher-student ratios are important, said Robin Mattes and Kristy Hostetler, both teachers in other districts.

“We really do love it,” Mattes said of the district and school. “But our kids, in second grade in particular, seem to get a lot higher class sizes than everybody else.”

Both classes started the year with one teacher for 28 students, they said.

They requested another person be hired.

“We do want you to realize we're concerned and we are talking,” Mattes added, explaining she and Hostetler are representing other parents.

“We totally understand your concern,” Superintendent Eileen Amato replied.

Several factors have caused higher teacher-student ratios than the district previously had, she explained, including state funding cuts and the configuration of schools.

Administrators have put support personnel, such as a reading teacher, in those classes to help, she added.

And Nicely's second grade isn't alone, Amato said.

Overall, 14 classes in the district's three elementary schools have 27, 28 or 29 students in them, she said.

District personnel considered teacher-student ratios and other factors when organizing classrooms, said Ashley Nestor, coordinator of elementary education.

“With each of these we asked ourselves ... how is this going to affect our students,” she said.

Hiring a classroom assistant might be a solution, and President Nat Pantalone said he is willing to discuss it with the board.

But Amato pointed out the district probably would need to hire six other assistants to be fair to other classes and schools.

Business manager James Meyer estimated an assistant would cost $20,000 for the remainder of the school year, or possibly $140,000 if seven were hired.

Another possibility would be transporting some of the students to less crowded classes in other district elementary schools, Amato said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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