Berkeley Township Schools Superintendent James D. Roselli has assured parents of Bayville Elementary School kindergarten students that despite larger class sizes, their children will not be transferred to another district elementary school unless the parents wanted them moved.
Roselli held an informational session at the school Wednesday night to squelch rumors that the district would hold a lottery to move students to another school or would stop offering full-day kindergarten.
The informational meeting was held after the district saw a sudden influx of 18 kindergarten students register for school just two weeks before the first day of school. Roselli said state regulations allow 25 students in a classroom and the district is within those guidelines at Bayville Elementary School.
Roselli said he has met with the kindergarten teachers, administration and child study team of Bayville Elementary to come up with the best solution for the larger than expected class sizes.
“Kindergarten teachers verbalized they could handle it,” he said.
Clara B. Worth Elementary School Principal Daniel Prima said kindergarten classes in his school have averaged 23 students per class for the last two years. That shows that the district can successfully teach a large class of kindergartners, he said.
Roselli said this past summer was unusual in that CBW saw a reduction in student class size, while Bayville saw an increase for the first time in his tenure with the district.
However, he said kindergarten classes at Bayville Elementary will be capped at current levels and any new students moving into the district will be sent to CBW.
Roselli also said that Bayville tends to have a “very transient population.”
Last year classes started with student numbers in the low twenties and ended the year in the high teens. While there is no guarantee that will happen again, Roselli said the district is likely to see class size reductions as the school year progressed.
Bayville Elementary School principal Mary Guinan said all of the district's elementary schools have a push cart system of other certified teachers who assist in the classroom of the primary teacher throughout the school day. This includes teachers who teach art and special subjects, basic skills teachers and English as a second language teachers.
“Every time another certified person enters the classroom, it dramatically reduces the student-teacher ratio,” said Guinan.
Students are not in class at all times during the day, since some have individual education plans that take them out of the class during the day, Roselli said.
“I visited a class on Monday," he said. "All the kids were involved in learning in an organized environment.”
If parents are unsatisfied with the class size situation, Roselli said the district will allow them to send their students to CBW, with the district paying the transportation costs.
He said this will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be capped at four students per classroom. Parents interested in that option must submit requests in writing to Guinan by Oct. 3.
Roselli said the district has also has a plan to assure that last-minute over-registration does not happen again.
Going forward, he said parents who register after Aug. 1 will be assured that their child will be educated in the district, but will not receive a specific school assignment until the last week of August.
“No one could anticipate an entire class would register two weeks before school starts," Roselli said. "That has never happened [before]. It’s very unusual.”
During the question and answer period one parent asked what would happen to Bayville students that transferred to CBW the following school year.
Roselli said the goal would be to bring them back to their home school, meaning Bayville, but the district would be “flexible.”
“If you are doing something to be flexible with us, we will be flexible with you,” said Roselli.
Roselli also said if enrollment levels do not drop at Bayville during this school year, then the district would likely transfer an additional first grade teacher to Bayville from one of the district’s other schools to reduce class sizes.
Parents also asked if the district had considered creating a new class within Bayville for this year.
Roselli said that was the district’s “gut reaction.” But that would mean taking children away from their current kindergarten teachers, he said.
“What is easiest is not always best,” he said. “The first thing we asked was, ‘Can we put something in?' The teachers said they would be heart-broken to lose one of their kids.”
Roselli said after the meeting he thought the session with parents accomplished its goal.
“The parents were very supportive and thankful we addressed their concerns,” he said.