Some members of the Marion School Committee voiced their concerns on February 13 about the current third grade class as it moves into fourth grade next year.
The third grade currently enjoys four sections for students, but next year when they advance to fourth grade, those four sections will be reduced to three as one of those teachers is transferred into special education, a place where Superintendent Dr. Doug White says Sippican School needs the increased support.
During the discussion of the first draft of the proposed fiscal 2020 school budget, School Committee member April Rios called a reduction in that grade a “recipe for disaster.”
“I have a lot of concerns,” Rios said. “I know, my child is in third grade currently, and I know some of the different situations that have arised (sic).” Rios cited an increase in new “issues” arising from an increase in population at Sippican School. “Knowing what I know, I just don’t agree with it or like it.”
But without that additional special education teacher, Principal Lyn Rivet suggested, there would be no way to serve an influx in children who require special education.
“As we’ve gotten our direction from the Town and trying to stay within the budget,” said White, … “we have to live within these numbers and move things around and do something different somewhere else.”
Rios suggested the committee and administration should further educate the Town officials on the changing needs of Sippican School and “what that looks like and how that affects the classroom.” She added, “It’s not the same.”
School Committee member Kate Houdelette said, although she understands the concerns Rios has, “You get stuck: you can’t add another head. … It is such a careful balance when you can’t add another head.” Houdelette continued, “I 100 percent agree with your concerns, but on the flip side, I’m concerned about the other things. … It is a no-win situation at this point.”
White said, as far as class size and where it stands right now at under 25 students per class, as that starts to exceed 25, “I think we have a much better case to go to the Town and start to ask for additional … support wherever it may be, but it’s harder enough to do that when we’re sitting at the numbers we are with our class sizes, so trying to make that case is more difficult at this present time.”
The general education budget is down for next year by $59,400, while special education is up $188,024 for a total budget increase of $106,792 over last year’s budget, or an increase of just 1.76 percent. The budget currently stands at just about $6,247,000.
“We have heard your concerns,” said White. “We will bring that back to the [budget] subcommittee and we will have further conversations … and make sure that all voices are heard and all concerns are considered.”
The final draft budget public hearing will be held at the committee’s next meeting.
The next meeting of the Marion School Committee is scheduled for March 27 at 7:00 pm at Sippican School.
Marion School Committee
By Jean Perry