Mount Shasta Elementary to lower class sizes

Skye Kinkade

Several parents were in attendance at the Mount Shasta Union School District board meeting Thursday to voice their opinions about two issues currently facing the board: the revision of the district’s independent study policy and the possible hiring of a new first grade teacher in order to accommodate the influx of new students at Mount Shasta Elementary School.

One mother of a homeschooled fourth-grader spoke in support of the independent study policy, saying it would offer her son the chance to be involved with extracurricular activities through MSUSD while still receiving a wonderful education at home.

Another mother explained that her family is not always able to travel internationally during the district’s scheduled vacation times and believes the independent study program would be a “very helpful option for our family.”

Two teachers spoke to the board about concerns they have regarding the equivalency of long-term independent study to the educational experiences of a classroom.

The board discussed the advantages of having a workable independent study program in order to maintain the state funding received for each student per day of attendance.

“If we lose kids, we lose revenue, resources, and programs,” superintendent Gary Lampella said. “We  need to maximize our economic revenue, especially in these troubling economic times.”

After the discussion, the board approved the Independent Study policy revision unanimously.

Several parents also spoke about the hiring of a new first grade teacher at MSES. Currently, MSES has three kindergarten classes, as well as one kindergarten and first grade combination class. Since the enrollment of several new kindergartners, the kindergarten classrooms have more than 20 students, which is over the student/teacher ratio outlined in California’s Class Size Reduction Policy. For every student over the set ratio, MSUSD loses a percentage of their funding.

In order to accommodate the growing number of students, MSES will be adding a new first grade teacher and eliminating the combination classes to keep the student/teacher ratio lower.

Parents are upset that their children will need to switch teachers so far into the school year. “I understand the budget issue,” said one mother, “but I’m concerned about the kids.”

“This issue [of class sizes] has been sitting right in front of us [all year],” stated another mother. “It’s pretty upsetting for both the students and the teachers.”

“I believe a smaller student/teacher ratio would be best for all children at Mount Shasta Elementary,” said MSES principal Sally Gasaway.

Lampella assured parents  he is “confident that we can provide... a strong program when the children transition [to a new class.]”

Also discussed at the meeting was the four year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act which was attached to the recently passed Economic Recovery Act, as well as two programs suggested by Lampella to recognize student achievement and outstanding services of staff and volunteers.

The next MSUSD board meeting will be held on Wed. Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at the District Office.