By ROB FRISKE
On Feb. 17, the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School Board met to discuss the very real possibility of not replacing teachers who are retiring. The primary reason stated is that school enrollment has diminished substantially in the last five years, and in order to balance revenue with expense, the district needs to save the payroll money that would be paid to replace the teachers.
This would mean that grade levels would go from having three sections to having two sections … so a 50 percent increase in class size. Rural districts don’t have a lot of advantages, but smaller class sizes are one of the HUGE advantages. Taking this sort of action would guarantee that school enrollment would continue to plummet because any parent that is “school shopping” would look past us due to the large class sizes.
Schools also get “graded” on their performance in effectively teaching students what the state says they need to know. What kind of impact is increasing class size going to have on that rating? It sure isn’t going to improve if teachers have more kids, meaning less individual time each student would have with their teacher. Not to mentionthe behavioral and discipline issues that will occur with 7–10 more students in each classroom.
Which brings up another point: where are you going to fit seven to 10 more desks in the classrooms? Most rooms are packed now with 15–18 desks.
From the board discussion, it sounded like the only other option is to put a referendum to the community either asking for more tax dollars or for allowing deficit spending. I get it and I am the last person who wants to pay more taxes. However, with all of the stupid stuff that our government spends money on, I would be okay with an increase if it went SPECIFICALLY to being able to replace the retiring teachers.
I fear that the board doesn’t have any interest in the referendum option, though. Which doesn’t make sense to me, because if theytry the referendum and it fails, they can still fall back on not replacing the retiring teachers. The school superintendent stated that the district is two to four years from being in critical shape, and even if the teachers aren’t replaced, it is highly likely that there will have to be a referendum anyhow.
For various reasons, the board has to make a decision on this matter by the end of March. So if this is important to you, please contact the school board members and the school superintendent.