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New Richmond School District makes class size adjustments

To help combat the increasing enrollment numbers at the elementary level, the New Richmond School District has hired nine new teachers, played musical classrooms with others and is still looking to lower classroom sizes in the fifth grade at Hillside Elementary.

As of June 16, the district is looking at an enrollment of 1,372 in grades kindergarten through fifth, according to numbers provided to the school board at its regular June meeting. Of those 1,372, 244 are kindergarteners, 244 are first-graders, 240 are second-graders, 230 are third-graders, 194 are fourth-graders and 220 are fifth-graders.

The district's goals are to keep class sizes between 20-22 students at the kindergarten through second grade level, Veilleux said. At the third through fifth grade level, ideal class sizes would be between 23 and 25 students, he said.

It's not uncommon to shift teachers around from year to year, he said. As large classes move through the school system, positions need to be adjusted to accommodate those students.

For example, when last year's second-graders (the Class of 2021) replace the outgoing third grade Class of 2020 next year, the district's third grade enrollment shifts from 196 third-graders to 230 third-graders. The only way to deal with those changes is to move teachers from one position to another, Veilleux said.

Similarly, when the kindergarten class decreases from 251 kindergarteners in 2010-11 to 244 in 2011-12, it means one of the kindergarten teachers can be moved to another grade level to accommodate the larger class sizes. That's exactly what happened to teacher Nicole Lodahl, who will be teaching first grade at Paperjack next year.

In addition to reassigning teachers, it's not uncommon for students to be voluntarily reassigned as well.

For example, Hillside Elementary is currently full, Veilleux said. There is no room to add additional classes at the school, which means the only way to lower class sizes is to reassign students to another elementary school, such as Paperjack Elementary.

Although most of the kinks have been worked out already, the district still needs to address the fifth grade class sizes at Hillside Elementary, which are currently projected to have classes of 29-30 students.

"I'm actually meeting with (Frank) Norton next week to discuss those classes," Veilleux said. "We'll address the situation at Hillside."

Veilleux said a little bit of juggling needs to be done each year, but the school board has always done a good job recognizing what needs to be done to keep class sizes within the range of its goals.

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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