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Hampton officials addressing concerns about class sizes at Poff, Wyland

| Monday, March 20, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

Some elementary grades in Hampton Township School District will be studied and reevaluated to manage size and staffing for the coming year with recommendations planned for the school board next month, per a discussion at the Hampton Township School Board meeting March 13.

Some parents were present that evening with two offering public comment on how they thought their children's homerooms, namely third-grades at Poff, were too crowded. With 28 students some voiced that it is too large for one teacher and classroom.

Sumer Panza, of Hampton, has a son in that room and while she said she was very pleased with the teacher, it doesn't allow for as much one-on-one interaction with students.

And she said there just isn't enough space for the children to be active when it's allowed.

“The bottom line is there are too many kids in the class,” said Panza, who requested that the school look into decreasing classroom sizes at Poff for the coming school year.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Loughead agreed with their concern and said this also seems to be a challenge at Wyland.

He said classroom placements and staffing are decided upon the spring prior to the next school year and sometimes unexpected growth occurs. This year, Loughead said several families moved into the district with children in that grade level after last school year was completed.

He said they have been monitoring the situation over the year.

“This is something that we try to solve going into next year,” he said.

Danielle Bigante, a Hampton parent, has a daughter in the same room at Poff and said the teachers do a “phenomenal” job but it's too much to handle especially when it comes to bathroom breaks, and “going to lunch is a mess.”

“I really don't want this to move to the fourth grade,” she said. “There's a lot of us that feel this way.”

School Board President Bryant Wesley II recently visited the schools and took note of these particular classrooms, agreeing with the problem.

“Some of those classrooms are really crowded,” he said.

Loughead said when classes at the age level reach more than 27, “It becomes difficult.” And any grade level at 29 is too large.

They are also looking for long-term solutions and whether it would be a new position or moving around existing staff. Loughead said they are still studying it. Short-term they may have a paraprofessional assist when possible.

In comparison, the classroom sizes at Pine-Richland School District “varies from year to year and from building to building,” according to Rachel Hatthorn, director of communications there. Currently, the Pine-Richland third-grade class size range is approximately 19 to 23.

Pine-Richland has three elementary schools comprised of grades one through three with a total of 1,220 students, according to its website.

Much larger North Allegheny School District has a policy of third-grade classroom sizes not to exceed 27, according to Kaitlyn Zurcher, of the district's communications department.

North Allegheny has seven elementary schools for kindergarten through fifth grade.

Administration has to strategically plan the number of classrooms and teachers as they have to project what type of population will occur in the township over the coming years, Loughead said.

Poff Elementary Principal Colleen Hannagan said teachers do their best whatever the number.

“The teachers at Poff are excellent. They will do whatever it takes to meet their students needs. Whether they have 21 students or 28 students, all of the teachers here are dedicated to making sure each one is learning and growing every day,” Hannagan said.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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