Apshawa parents want third class for first grade

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  • Photo by Patricia Keller AnnMarie Polglaze addressed the school board on behalf of parents at Apshawa School, wanting to keep three sections for next year's first grade.

  • Parents stood to support AnnMarie Polglaze as she spoke to the school board.

Current board policy lists the number of pupils desired per class to be between 20 and 23 students for kindergarten through third grade, with a recommended maximum of 25 students.

A group of Apshawa parents have asked the school district to have three sections for their first graders, as it is now in kindergarten, even though the number of children falls below district guidelines.

AnnMarie Polglaze, supported by a group of parents donned mostly in red shirts in the audience, spoke on behalf of Apshawa Elementary School students and their parents at the May 27 meeting of the West Milford Board of Education. Polglaze requested that the district continue to have three class sections for their incoming first grade students next year instead of reducing it to two classes as the district planned. This grade level of students currently has three sections for kindergarten, and the parents would like for that to continue next year, despite the enrollment numbers being below the board’s policy recommendation of a maximum of 25 students per class.

Polglaze said there are currently 49 students enrolled for first grade and only 19 enrolled for kindergarten for Sept. 2014. She said Apshawa School has the classroom space and staff available to continue with three classes for the incoming first graders for next year. That would keep the class sizes smaller with 16 or 17 students in each class with room to accommodate new incoming students, as opposed to the 24 and 25 students that would be in two classrooms, possibly with a class aide.

The current board policy lists number of pupils desired per class to be between 20 and 23 students for kindergarten through third grade, with a recommended maximum of 25 students.

“Our students have flourished in their current class size," said Polglaze. "The student-teacher ratio created unimaginable opportunities for our students to learn. Our students deserve this opportunity to continue.”

She said parents are concerned that the larger class size could be overwhelming for the students, create greater distraction, and negatively affect their social growth. “First grade is an important start to an educational career. It is the footing upon which all else is built,” Polglaze told the board.

Superintendent of Schools James McLaughlin recently attended a PTA meeting at Apshawa School upon their request to discuss the issue, but Polglaze said McLaughlin told them a third class section for the grade is not warranted since the current enrollment numbers do not exceed the recommended number of students per class. She said McLaughlin added that class aides may be an alternative option. Polglaze said that adding an additional body to an already crowded classroom was not the solution the parents were seeking.

“We ask that you look beyond the numbers,” Polglaze told the board.

Polglaze said that Apshawa parents appreciate their teachers and staff for all they do, and they need to support them. She said that in light of new state standards for the new common core curriculum, evaluations, student growth objectives and PARCC testing that “teacher responsibility has grown, class size should not.” Polglaze said they have the ability to keep the three classes, with the available space, staff and budget to do so.

In an email response to the Messenger, McLaughlin said,

“All grade level sections for all schools will continue to be monitored, particularly kindergarten and first grade where incoming students are the most likely," McLaughlin said. "Decisions to add sections would most likely be determined by the July BOE meeting in order to provide enough time to hire and allow teachers the prep time to begin the new school year.”

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