LAKE PLACID - Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania addressed classroom size concerns and gave an overview of the budget process with a group of parents Wednesday morning, June 11.
Also in attendance were school board President Mary Dietrich, Vice President John Hopkinson and Elementary School Principal Brian Latella.
A little over a dozen parents turned up for the meeting to better understand why the classroom size will increase for the third grade next school year. The district budget, approved in May by 81 percent of voters, cut 3.1 full-time-equivalent teaching positions. One of those in the elementary school is being lost through a retirement. Teaching assistants will be repurposed, and another teacher will be reduced to half-time.
Photo — Matthew Turner
Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania, right, addresses concerns over classroom sizes with parents at an informal meeting Wednesday morning, June 11.
The parents who came Wednesday mostly have children in second grade who will enter third grade this fall. There are an estimated 50 children in next year's third grade, split between two teachers, leaving 25 students per class, Catania said. The state-mandated class size limit is 28 students.
Catania laid out the budget and the reasons the school board members made the decisions they did. The board focused on cutting in non-staff areas first. He also explained some of the problems the district faces such as state-mandated costs and the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which reduces state aid.
The district held a total of six budget hearings: public hearings in Lake Placid and Wilmington, two for community clubs and two for teachers, Catania said.
The parents seemed to recognize they had been out of the loop, whether because they didn't have time to pay attention or because the district wasn't communicating to them well enough. Darcy Norfolk said it's hard for parents with young children to attend night meetings, and she would like to see the district use newsletters to inform parents. Dietrich said information on the budget and school board are posted on the school website. In addition, school board meetings are covered weekly in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News.
Ashlegh Mayberry, the mother of a current second-grader, was deeply concerned that the classroom size increase could have a negative impact on her son. She said he struggled in first grade but is doing well currently.
"My son likes school now in second grade," Mayberry said. "I'd hate to go back."
Garrick Smith of Lake Placid thanked Catania and the others for the information.
"I sincerely appreciate the overview of the budget," Smith said. "We also appreciate you have to make very difficult decisions with staffing and personnel. One of the biggest reasons we are here today is to provide you with additional feedback."
Smith said the current second-grade class was "very male dominated," "high energy" and had some IEPs (individual education plans).
"We think the teachers are very stressed now," he said.
Catania said the pros and cons of having increased size in either the second or third grade were weighed at previous meetings.
Catania said he will try to make a decision on what can be done to address third-grade classroom size within the next two weeks, but he said changes happen and a final decision could very well extend into the summer.
"Teaching assistants are a part of the picture," Catania said. "We've been looking into this."
Catania said that possibly meant shifting current teaching assistants from other grades to third grade. He also recognized that lower class sizes are ideal. Dietrich agreed, saying the tax cap caused the problem.
"We are committed to small class sizes," Dietrich said. "That's what makes Lake Placid so special."