Now that the school department has the funding to add an additional kindergarten class at the Gorman Fort Banks School the task of creating that classroom is in front of the school staff.
The additional classroom is considered a positive move for the learning environment of the students, but it doesn’t come without challenges, as there is a delicate process involved in adding a classroom and shifting students around.
Three students will be moved from each of the six 26-student existing classrooms, resulting in six classrooms with 23 students and one additional classroom with 18 students.
Two weeks ago the Town Council appropriated $154,200 to the school department for the additional classroom.
“We are aware of the disruption that this will cause for both the parents and students,” said Superintendent of Schools Lisa Howard. “These kindergartners have already become attached to their teacher, peers, and classmates, and are in a routine. Transitions are hard in general, and especially challenging for 5-year-olds. I am confident that our teachers will prepare our kindergarteners for a smooth transition and ensure that the parents are part of the process.”
Howard, along with Fort Banks Principal Ilene Pearson and Director of Pupil Personnel Services Jennifer O’ Connell, have had multiple meetings to discuss the issues surrounding the new classroom, and have come to the following step-by-step plan, with approximate dates, for the student selection process:
On Oct. 17 parents/guardians of current kindergarten students were notified of the opportunity to have their child considered as a student who would voluntarily move into the new kindergarten classroom. All responses are due to the principal by Oct. 24.
On Oct. 25 Principal Team (Principal/ELL staff/K Teachers/Education Team Leader) will identify the volunteers and other students who are eligible to be considered for the new classroom placement and conduct the random selection process by Oct. 30. Only students with specific educational needs/histories will be considered ineligible for the new classroom.
Between Oct. 30 and Nov. 5 the principal team will reconvene to review and finalize all class placements.
On Nov. 9 the principal will notify the parents/guardians of the students selected for the new classroom and reveal the transition schedule, which will potentially occur on Nov. 26.
The new kindergarten teacher and ESP will have time to meet the students, teachers and parents prior to Nov. 26.
The added classroom, which will have 18 students, one teacher, and one ESP, will be located in the current kindergarten wing of the Fort Banks School, and will be matched with the other classrooms in terms of student ratio (ELL/General Education/Students with Disabilities). Controls will be put in place which will allow for equity of classroom composition through teacher input, special education and ELL placement considerations and principal discretionary practice, which is no different than the system used prior to the start of a new school year when new classrooms are first constructed. In the event that new kindergarten students register after Oct. 26, these students will be added to the seventh classroom, given the fact that it will have 18 students versus 23.