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October 30. 2013 10:58PM

Grinnell Elementary School in Derry adds teacher to reduce crowding

DERRY — A third classroom has been added and a new teacher hired to ease crowding in the fifth-grade at Grinnell Elementary School, according to school officials.

Fifth-grade enrollment surged at the beginning of the school year, bringing the total number of students to 59, said Principal Mary Hill.

“In between June and September, we had 10 new registrations,” Hill said. “That was something we couldn’t plan for. Our class size was large, but we never expected it to get that large.”Enrollment levels for the other grades remained fairly stable, and administrators aren’t sure why only the fifth-grade experienced the increase, Hill said.

“It’s not unusual to get so many registrations over the summer, but to get it in the fifth grade, you just wouldn’t expect if for one grade.”

To help ease crowding, the School Board approved a plan earlier in the school year to add an additional classroom and teacher for Grinnell. The decision reduced the average classroom size from around 29.5 to just under 20 students.

Praising the School Board’s decision, Hill said teacher Laurie Duford was hired on Oct. 15 for the third fifth-grade class.

To foster a sense of community, all fifth-grade families were recently invited to attend a dinner, Hill said.

School district officials are already planning ahead for next year’s enrollment at Grinnell. As part of the proposed 2014-15 school year budget, plans call for adding a reading specialist and hiring a fifth-grade teacher.

The fifth-grade teaching position that was just filled is for only one year, according to school officials.

Earlier in the school year, another elementary school in town was also experiencing crowding in the fifth grade. The School Board addressed crowding at Ernest P. Barka School by agreeing to hire a paraprofessional.

Of Barka’s four fifth-grade classrooms, three have 27 students and one has 25 students. The school district recommends that a fifth-grade classroom not exceed 25 students, according to school officials.

It was agreed that it would be too disruptive to pull students out of the classes and move them into a fifth classroom. The current teachers work in teams of two per classroom and adding a fifth teacher would have created an odd number of teachers and disrupted the bonding between teachers and students, school officials said.

It was agreed that it would be better to add a paraprofessional who could assist the teachers and enhance the educational process, Principal Dan LaFleur said.

Since the board’s vote, the school has hired Samantha Wallack, who is also a certified teacher, LaFleur said.


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