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Proposed school cuts upset parents

A proposal to cut five elementary school teachers for the 2010-11 school year did not sit well with a group of parents who showed up at Monday's District 192 School Board meeting.

The group of about five parents showed up Monday to complain about the prospect of growing class sizes but board members and district staff said it's too soon to say for sure how many students will be in the classroom once the school year starts next fall.

The district presented the proposed cuts in March as part of a larger package of budget cuts, but finance director Jeff Priess said the cuts are the result of enrollment that is not growing as fast as originally expected.

Priess said it's important for the district to be conservative with its staffing estimates because school districts receive state funding based on the number of students they have in the classroom.

"We need to be cautious and examine all these enrollment numbers before we start adding staff," Priess said. "This could be much easier if we got funded on our projected enrollment."

The district is also restricted by staffing rules that require notification by July for teachers who will not be back next year. It's easier to let a teachers go and bring them back, in other words, than to keep them around in hopes enough students show up.

The district's current target range for kindergarten through second grade class sizes is 20 to 25; for third and fourth grades it's 25 to 28 and for fifth grade it's 27 to 30. Current estimates for 2010-11 show as many as 30 students per second grade class at North Trail Elementary School and average class sizes above 25 at all elementary schools.

The idea of growing class sizes did not sit well with some parents. Three parents spoke at Monday's meeting and more sat with them in the audience. They expressed concerns growing class sizes could hurt student performance.

"The teachers are giving everything they have already, and you are asking them to give more," said Tara Lee, a Farmington parent who volunteers in the schools. "We feel our kids should be the last ones to feel the effects of this economy."

Assistant superintendent Christine Weymouth said there is little evidence of a correlation between class sizes and student performance. She said Farmington student scores on the Northwest Education Association test the district gives at the beginning and end of each school year did not vary significantly based on the size of a student's class.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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