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Scituate shifts kindergarten students to shrink class sizes

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  April 25, 2013 04:19 PM

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Scituate school officials have decided to redistrict a small portion of full-day kindergarten students and reconfigure their half-day kindergarten program in an effort to reduce the size of classes in kindergarten through third grade.

“Basically, the Jenkins district is becoming a little smaller, and Wompatuck and Cushing are increasing a little,” said Superintendent John McCarthy said.

The number of students affected will range from about seven in the coming school year to about 100 over several years, he said.

Administrators have been working for months to try to sort out how to bring class sizes to 20 students or fewer in younger grade levels, where studies have shown small class sizes are most beneficial.

“It was a long process, but it was worth it,” said McCarthy. “And we had a lot of meetings with parents. We went out three times to talk to patents and explain our plan.”

The problem was mainly at Jenkins Elementary School. Not only were there too many students, but there wasn’t enough space to bring in additional teachers to shrink the size of some of the classes.

With the budget already approved to bring more teachers on board, administrators eventually decided on a series of moves to free up space, sending all half-day kindergarten students to Wompatuck Elementary School, which had the space to accommodate them.

Additionally, Scituate will slowly start to redistrict a small number of students planning to attend full day-kindergarten classes at Jenkins, having them start and continue their elementary careers at either Cushing Elementary School or Wompatuck Elementary.

The only students who will change schools – seven in total for this year - will be those who don’t have older siblings already at Jenkins.

“What we’re doing in the process of redistricting, is if you’re in one of the neighborhoods that is being redistricted and you already have a child at Jenkins, you can keep both of your children at Jenkins - you don’t have to send one child to one school and another to another,” McCarthy said. “The number [of redistricted students] is smaller than what it could have been. It could have been more students, but because we’re allowing them to keep students at Jenkins if they have kids there, it takes the number down a little bit.”

Initially, administrators wanted to move the entire kindergarten out of Jenkins Elementary School, which would have freed up space to break up the first through third grade into smaller classes.

Yet parents were concerned that they would then have multiple kids in different school districts, which could become cumbersome.

Though that may be the case for one year for parents that have an older child and one in half-day classes, any permanent moves will ensure that siblings attend the same school.

Over time, entire neighborhoods will be redistricted to schools that can better accommodate the numbers, a shift that will probably bring 100 students out of Jenkins over the next several years and into Cushing and Wompatuck, which have seen student declines.

“This is a good compromise. And in a few years, it won’t be an issue anymore,” McCarthy said.

In the meantime, the moves have allowed administrators to keep all classes in K-3 at or below 20 students.

Neighborhoods that will see the change this year will be the Sand Hills area of Scituate, as well as a neighborhood close to Greenbush.

“It will take a period of time, we will shift the whole neighborhood, but it will take a few years,” McCarthy said.

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