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Greensburg Salem School District struggles with reducing class sizes

| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, 12:50 a.m.

Greensburg Salem administrators will present a proposal to school directors next week on how to remedy large class sizes in elementary schools.

During a presentation Wednesday, administrators said 16 classrooms in the district's three elementary schools have 25 or more students in a classroom, including 30 children at James H. Metzgar.

“We think 30 in a room is too many,” Superintendent Eileen Amato told directors.

A tight budget has hampered directors' efforts to lower class sizes along with lack of space at Amos K. Hutchinson.

Last month, two parents who also are teachers in other school districts, questioned directors about class sizes at Robert F. Nicely.

Directors discussed on Wednesday various options to try to ease the class sizes, including hiring more teacher assistants and more teachers.

President Nat Pantalone pushed for more hirings.

“That's our job. That's the whole thing we do: educate kids,” Pantalone said.

Other directors expressed financial concerns. They believe the district will be in a financial bind next year.

Both Amato and Ashley Nestor, coordinator of elementary education, said they would love to have smaller class sizes. But there is a financial side to running a school district, they acknowledged.

“I'd give anything to have 19, 20 kids in a class,” Nestor added.

The district has tried to ease the situation at schools by using support personnel, she added.

Director Ronald Mellinger said all directors would like to see smaller classes, “but the only thing we can control is personnel (costs).”

He agreed 30 children in a classroom is too many.

Director Lee Kunkle said he would like to see any changes done consistently at the schools.

“What we do for one, we have to do for all,” he added.

Business manager James Meyer estimated a classroom assistant would cost $29,000 for the 132 days left in the school year, while a teacher would cost about $38,000.

Nicely and Hutchinson have two assistants; Metzgar has one after a resignation, based on the discussion.

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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