Farmingville class sizes draw parent frustration
Parents of Farmingville students shared their concerns about the school’s class sizes at the Board of Education meeting Monday night, Dec. 11. Five parents spoke out in opposition to the school’s second grade class size, which they said unfairly put their children at a disadvantage.
“For two years in a row, our children have been enrolled in classes with the maximum number of children allowed,” said Caroline Keenan of Old Musket Lane, parent of a second grade student at Farmingville Elementary. “By the end of first grade, they were over the maximum.”
Keenan, who read from a letter prepared by several second grade Farmingville parents, said they are concerned with the “cumulative effects” of large class sizes. “While none of us have any complaints whatsoever about our teachers’ abilities, we believe — and research backs this up — that smaller class sizes are preferable for many reasons.”
Members of the board did not respond to the parents’ concerns during the meeting, because the concerns were raised during the public comment section of the meeting. The board had no further discussion on class sizes on the agenda for the evening.
Staffing and enrollment numbers provided in the superintendent’s school opening report show the second grade class at Farmingville had an average class size of 24 students per teacher — the highest class size average across the district’s six elementary schools.
The district hired three additional elementary teachers this year — a third grade teacher at Barlow Mountain, and both a third and fifth grade teacher at Veterans Park Elementary — in order to break class sizes, after more students enrolled than were originally projected.
But although the second grade class at Farmingville is in line with the district’s class size maximum of 24 students, parents said the maximum size isn’t good enough.
“There is a parity across the rest of the school district,” said Michelle Christ of Longview Drive. “When the rest of the district is operating at a functional average of 19 students [per class] … it creates an unequal situation between the schools.”
She suggested the district create a buffer system, whereby class size maximums would not be a hard-and-fast rule where class sizes break once a class reaches 25 students. “Is there the possibility … as soon as we get to 23, we need to be thinking that there might be a need for an aide?” she asked.
Parents who spoke acknowledged the budgetary constraints an additional teacher might place on the school district (the superintendent’s office imposed a hard budget freeze at the beginning of the school year), but they also said the class size concerns outweighed budget restrictions.
“While we respect the budget and managerial process,” said Jill Rotuno of Walnut Grove Road, “we just feel that the educational cost of continuing to deny these same students the best environment in which to learn should outweigh any budgetary concerns.”