Canon-McMillan parents criticize class sizes

August 18, 2014
Erin Cummings, the mother of a daughter entering kindergarten at Cecil Elementary School, complained of large kindergarten classes for the 2014-15 school year during a school board meeting Monday. - Emily Petsko / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Class will be back in session next week, and for 50 children in Canon-McMillan School District, that means transitioning to new schools as part of the administration’s redistricting plan to even out class sizes in seven elementary schools.

Opponents to redistricting have been mum since the plan was approved in April, but a small group of parents attended Monday’s board meeting to speak out against what they consider to be crowded kindergarten classes at Cecil Elementary School.

Ron and Melissa Moreschi, both teachers at Chartiers Valley Middle School, said they moved to Canon-McMillan School District three years ago because they admired the district’s reputation and small classes in neighborhood schools.

Ron Moreschi said he learned Cecil Elementary kindergarten classes currently have 25 and 24 students registered this school year. He said that’s a big increase from last year, when about 20 students filled the morning classes and 12 were registered in afternoon kindergarten.

“Recently, with all the redistricting and some other things that are going on, I’m now seeing that my daughter going to kindergarten has a class size of 25,” he said. “I’m a little disappointed in the direction the school district is going in.”

Erin Cummings is also an educator and has a daughter entering kindergarten at Cecil Elementary. She said 25 “is a very high number” for kindergarten classes, but also said students will have more rigorous lessons this year as part of the Common Core standards.

For instance, she said, kindergarten students will now be required to learn three letters a week instead of one.

“I think with 25 students that does make it a lot more challenging, not only for the teacher, but for the students as well,” Cummings said.

Parents asked if another kindergarten class could be added at Cecil Elementary. Rochele Reitlinger, whose daughter is one of 50 students affected by redistricting, said the eight children moved from Cecil to Hills Hendersonville should be permitted to return to Cecil if kindergarten classes are split.

Board member Darla Bowman-Monaco said the district will consider splitting kindergarten classes when enrollment hits 26 students, but that also requires the district to hire another teacher. She said it has been done before at Cecil Elementary, but the district must wait to see if there are any class withdrawals before acting.

“We’re sitting on our hands, we’re on hold, waiting for that number (in Cecil Elementary) to either go up or down, and it could do both,” she said. “It could go up this week or go down next week.”

The population in district schools continues to rise, and 77 new students have enrolled across the district since June.

Daniels said it’s not uncommon to have last-minute withdrawals, and the district has “to go with the actual numbers, rather than anticipating what might be.”

Cindy Fisher, a mother and Cecil Township supervisor, questioned that policy.

“You’re not 10 students away from 27, or whatever that magic number is. You’re one or two,” Fisher said. “And for kindergarten, when you’re heading into such an important part of your life, your first experience with school, to have the potential that those students could be switched mid-year could be traumatizing, to say the least.”

Daniels said a paraeducator will help out with Cecil kindergarten classes, and the district will continue to check enrollment numbers.

“We’re always constantly monitoring,” Daniels said, “and we’re not going to set our kids up for failure.”

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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