Parents concerned over mixed gradesMore than a third of the parents whose children attend Houlton Elementary are concerned about a possible plan to combine the kindergarten and first grade, and the fourth and fifth grades at Hudson’s so-called “country school.”
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
More than a third of the parents whose children attend Houlton Elementary are concerned about a possible plan to combine the kindergarten and first grade, and the fourth and fifth grades at Hudson’s so-called “country school.”
Four representatives of the parents, including officers of the Houlton Parent Group, addressed the School Board at its monthly meeting last week at River Crest Elementary. They were concerned about a notice in the school newsletter that said the board would be considering combining the grades due to the small enrollments in the classes being considered. That would free up at least two teachers, who could be assigned to teach at other schools in the district as needed.
As of the official student count in January, there were 27 kindergarten students, 37 first-graders, 42 second-graders, 33 third-graders and 31 fourth-graders. There are currently 30 children registered for kindergarten in the fall.
The parents presented their concerns in several areas including differentiating instruction, teacher training for a mixed-grade classroom and implementing the plan for the students who already experience the most transition in elementary school — incoming kindergarteners and out-going fifth-graders.
The parents pointed out that if board members supported the proposal with a vote at their July 14 meeting, there would only be seven weeks for teachers, who are on vacation during most of that time, to prepare before the start of school.
The parents said their research indicated that teachers would need more time than that to get the professional training needed to address the specific challenges of multi-grade classrooms. They also wondered where the money would come from for additional training since the board has already voted to make cuts in the staff development budget for the coming year.
The parents asked how long the new plan would be in place and how it would impact the district’s long-range plan, HSD 2025, to provide a quality education to all students in the district.
The parents did offer the board a possible alternative and offered to help. Parent Tim Miner, father of a third-grader and a preschooler, said the Parent Group would like to help the district host an open house at Houlton. There, any parents in the district would be offered a boundary exception if they wanted their child to attend Houlton Elementary with transportation provided by the school district.
Miner pointed out that the district has already done this in the years prior to River Crest opening in an effort to balance enrollment. The parents also pointed out that it was the board that abandoned a boundary adjustment plan last spring that would have increased enrollment at Houlton.
The parents closed by saying that the board’s current proposal was not in the best interest of students or teachers.
The parents were complimented for their presentation and suggestions by several board members, Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten and Deputy Superintendent Nancy Sweet. The board is expected to make a decision on the proposal at the July meeting.
For more information, contact Houlton Elementary Principal Ann Mitchell at (715) 377-3850, firstname.lastname@example.org. wi.us.