ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
Last week, fourth-grade enrollment at Hillsboro Elementary school surpassed expectations and will require the expansion of one teaching contract from half time to full time.
Superintendent Gordon Mohn reported at a special meeting Friday morning of the Unified District 410 Board of Education that the number of fourth-graders stands at 49, with nine of those being new to the district.
“That number could very well stay throughout the year,” Mohn said.
Because of the higher enrollment, the board voted to expand Julie Linnens’ half-time contract to full-time for the coming school year.
The board made this decision because last spring it set a maximum class-size target of 45 students for grades four, five and six.
With two teachers, 49 fourth-graders would require classes of 24 and 25 students. By adding the half-time position, fourth-graders will meet in three sections for reading and math instruction.
“This has been done for the past two years in third grade,” Mohn said.
Linnens, currently a half-time third-grade teacher for reading and math, will teach third graders in the mornings and fourth graders in the afternoons.
The board made its decision after Mohn reviewed four options school administrations had considered after confirming the enrollment numbers.
n Option 1: Continue with two teachers, Mike Jilka and Gloria Winter.
“Both teachers said they would have taken the whole group for the whole day,” said Yoder, HES principal.
Most of the students enrolled in the fourth grade will spend the majority of their time in the regular classroom, said Yoder.
But if new students are added during the school year, Mohn said, that would push class size beyond acceptable limits.
n Option 2: Provide each fourth-grade teacher with an instruction aide.
Mohn said aides usually do not have expertise to instruct in specific subject areas.
“Sometimes (using aides) would work very well, sometimes not,” Mohn said.
Salary, payroll taxes and defined benefits for two aides would cost the district $26,500.
n Option 3: Add a full-time teacher, which would create three sections of 16, 16 and 17 students.
“I’m not sure who we’d find,” Mohn said. “It could take a week to 10 days to fill that position.”
Approximate cost of adding a full-time teacher would range between $31,500 and $45,000, depending on the candidate’s degree and experience.
n Option 4: Add a half-time teacher. With this option, it would be possible to divide into three sections for reading and math instruction, a similar arrangement this class had as third-graders, Mohn said.
“Parents seemed satisfied with this arrangement last year,” he added.
Linnens already is familiar with the fourth-grade class, Mohn said, because she taught them as third graders last year. She also is familiar with the district’s math and reading curriculum.
Board member Dale Klassen, participated in the meeting via telephone, asked Yoder whether he had any concerns or reservations about this arrangement.
“Julie works well with other (teachers),” Yoder said. “She’s the one who can make this work.”