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Pelham School Board and Parents Discuss Class Size

PELHAM, N.Y. – The Pelham Board of Education continued its discussion of the 2012-2013 Pelham Schools budget Monday night at the middle school library. The main discussion was class size, which has been a heavily debated topic in Pelham for some time, according to members of the board.

While the minimum class size for K-2 and 3-5 are both 15, the maximum are 23 and 26, respectively. Classes that exceed that limit are in first and second grade at Prospect Hill, third grade at Siwanoy and kindergarten at Colonial.

Peter Liaskos, a father of two boys who are in first and second grade at Siwanoy, was one of several parents to get up and speak during the meeting. He would like to see the board “have a debate” on the importance of class size.

“I haven’t heard any debate on it [the class sizes],” Liaskos said. “All I’ve heard is, 'Oh, we’re cutting three positions. That seems to be OK.' 24, 25 seems to be acceptable numbers even though there’s been a tremendous amount of community input telling you that’s not what we want.”

“We've heard community input on all sides of this,” said Pelham school board president Robert Eicher. “We have had input saying that’s not what we want and then there’s community input saying that’s exactly what we want. We have community input from a lot of places.” Board member Will Cavanagh told Liaskos and the rest of the parents the board is sensitive to the matter and it monitors it all the time. Board member Peter Giarizzo, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and personnel, said he constantly is looking at the enrollment numbers in each class.

“We aren't making a decision now – a final decision – on the number of sections because in past years when we've done that, we have ended up with two small classes in some schools because of people moving,” Cavanagh said. “We’ve postponed that decision till basically the end of August.”

He also said he was hoping “four or five more kids end up signing up for some these classes that are on the cusp, so it makes the decision easy.”

After the meeting, Liaskos said he hoped the board would start talking about the issue of class size at the board meetings.

“Discuss the science,” Liaskos said. “Whether they agree if small class size in K-3 has an impact on academic performance.” In addition to the discussion on class size, Angelo Rubbo, the assistant superintendent for business, said there is an increased need for more bandwidth.

“We’re seeing with technology a significant usage,” Rubbo said. “So, we’re recommending to the board to increase bandwidth from 30 mgs per second (mps) to 50 mps, which is a $5,000 cost. We’re currently hitting the ceiling on 30 mgs on a regular basis throughout the school day. The system starts to freeze up and it significantly slows down. When we have a class running and we start to hit that 30 mg, the whole system slows down significantly because there’s no bandwidth management from classroom to classroom.”

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