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BOE Responds To Overcrowded Class Concerns

Dutch Lane parents unite to show dismay over 30-child class

More than a dozen parents from Dutch Lane School were at the Sept. 19 Hicksville Board of Education meeting regarding Dutch Lane’s only first-grade class, which includes 30 children – a number some parents believe is too large.

According to Hicksville Board of Education President Susan Powell, the district adopted a policy three years ago as a response to the down economy.

“The board adopted a policy because of the budget constraints that no class can be under 16. In order to split it, you’d have two classes of 15,” Powell said.

Hicksville resident and Dutch Lane first-grade parent Chris Connors, who moved to Hicksville six years ago in part because of the district’s academic reputation, cited the varying class sizes within the district’s seven elementary schools as one of his concerns.

“It’s mind-boggling because I think we are probably the only first-grade class of 30 in all of the surrounding districts. It’s kind of nerve-wracking because I came to the Island and I came to Hicksville because of the reputation. All of our tax dollars are at work so I think it starts to be a little unfair and not as even as it maybe should be,” said Connors.

Janet O’Connell, a Dutch Lane parent, believes the current policy will cause parents to pull their children out of public school and place them into private school, among other possible consequences.   

“The bottom line truth is that she’s ensuring our enrollment will be down. Right now we have 30 children in the class. When people start feeling hopeless, what they do is pull their kids out. What you’re doing is turning good parents away and they’ll put [their children] into private schools or they’ll move.

“I’m even thinking of it, if nothing is going to happen, I can’t let my daughter not get a proper education. If you’re paying extra money to put your kids into private school, then you also don’t want the budget to go up,” O’Connell said, adding that ELA scores from last year’s third-grade class at Dutch Lane, which O’Connell said was another large class, showed that 58 percent met state standards.

Superintendent of Schools Maureen Bright thanked parents for voicing their concerns and also offered a background of the situation.

“We believe in students having a kindergarten through five school so that students and parents have that continuity. Because we have seven schools, it becomes increasingly more difficult, as homes are bought and sold and as the economy has changed, to have that same distribution the same in every school. Over time, Dutch Lane has a smaller enrollment. The split numbers, in most instances, split a class from two classes to three classes or three classes to four classes. Dutch Lane is the only school where we have a reoccurring problem where we have one class of students at a grade level and that’s where the problem started,” said Bright, noting how Dutch Lane is a unique situation because the first-grade only has one class section.

“Once you do have split numbers and once you have many schools, you will have some instances where there are 19 students and some instances where there are 26. In this instance, because we have only one section and one class at a grade level, that’s how the board came to its place. The board has made certain decisions to keep Dutch Lane a viable elementary school,” Bright said.

The superintendent also explained that there are several teachers present in that specific class at all times, including a combination of a regular teacher, a special education teacher and a teacher’s assistant, which she explained, differs from a teacher’s aide in the fact that assistants must have an associate’s degree or 60 credits. She also said that many teacher’s assistant positions are required by law due to the number of students with disabilities enrolled at Dutch Lane.

“I’m at Dutch Lane with the poor enrollment. My tax dollars don’t work for my daughter. How fair is that? I have two children that are affected by this,” O’Connell said.