Elmhurst Dist. 205 hires teacher; parents want cap on class sizes
Elmhurst Unit District 205 will hire a new third-grade teacher for Jackson Elementary School to keep a promise about class sizes.
But some parents have posted an online petition urging district officials to work with the community to establish "a reasonable cap" on how many students should be in kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms.
Officials said the decision to hire another teacher came last week after a new student enrolled at Jackson, pushing the number of third-graders in one classroom to 30. The two other sections of third grade at Jackson each have 29 students.
Superintendent David Moyer told Jackson parents last spring that he wouldn't allow class sizes to exceed 29 students.
"Dr. Moyer committed that he would not have 30 children in a classroom," district spokeswoman Melea Smith said Monday. "The problem is that it's difficult at this time of the year. Relationships have already been built, and now you're going to have to grab kids out of every class to create this fourth class."
Still, the district will post the position, do interviews, make plans for classroom space and divide the three sections of third grade into four. Each section will have 22 students.
"The class list for the new section will be created using our school process from the spring," Jackson principal Christine Trendel wrote in letter to parents. "We will create a heterogeneous class balanced in gender, academic readiness and interests."
The hope is that the new teacher will be hired within a month, Smith said.
In the spring, parents of current third-graders at Jackson and two other elementary schools -- Lincoln and Hawthorne -- voiced concerns about class sizes. At the time, they urged the district to add another section of third grade at all three schools.
The parents said they believe that having 27 or more students in a classroom is detrimental to learning.
District officials say they make every attempt to keep class sizes low. Still, they said a quality education can be provided in a classroom with 27 or 28 kids.
District 205's target class size for kindergarten through second grade is 25 students. It rises to 27 students for third, fourth and fifth grades.
Officials said the targets were established six years ago as a monitoring tool and guideline -- not a hard cap.
Some parents, however, posted an online petition calling for a cap.
"We want the board and Dr. Moyer to work with the community to establish a reasonable cap on class size that's consistently used to determine section size," said District 205 parent Katie Marsico, who created the petition with a parent from Jackson.
The limit should be closer to 24 students than 30 students, according to the petition at change.org.
In addition, the petition calls on District 205 to ensure there's adequate funding to sustain the cap if it asks voters for a property tax increase to pay for future building projects.
As of Monday afternoon, 490 people had signed the petition.