Central Montcalm Public School has new option for 4-year-olds

STANTON — A new program for 4-year-olds will be on tap for children in the Central Montcalm Public School district following a 5-0 vote by the school board.

The Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), a state-funded preschool program, had a higher than expected response, leading to a need for additional staffing, according to Superintendent Kristi Teall.

“We thought we would be allotted 16 spots, then learned we would have 32 slots,” Teall told the school board at Monday night’s meeting. “We have heard from 48 qualifying students with more coming in.”

By adding more staff, and opening more sections, the district would be able to serve those students, Teall said.

With two additional sections from the original one section of 16 students, the district called back the one staff member who remained on layoff to teach at the middle school level.

“We have moved a middle school teacher to be half-time GSRP and half-time intervention, but we still have need of a half-time assistant teacher or para-pro with CDA (Child Development Associate) endorsements,” said Teall.

The GSRP would run half-days Tuesday through Friday at the Central Montcalm Elementary building in Sheridan.

“How close are we coming to filling up that building? If we add those numbers, do we shoot ourselves by running the risk of not having enough classrooms for them?” asked trustee Mark Grossbauer.

Teall explained that a kindergarten playroom would be converted to a classroom, leaving the former art room as the only open classroom at this point.

School board members questioned class sizes of the grade levels at the elementary building, along with voicing concerns over large class sizes in the upper grade levels. Teall  said as of last week, the district has 120 kindergarten students enrolled, with class sizes ranging from 22 to 24 per classroom; 138 first grade students, with class sizes of 27 and 28; 107 second grade students, with class sizes of 26 to 27; 144 third grade students, with class sizes of 28 and 29; 137 fourth grade students, with class sizes of 27 and 28; 149 fifth grade students, with class sizes of 27 and 28; 144 sixth grade students with class sizes of 33 to 35; 154 seventh grade students, with class sizes of 27 and 28; and 156 eighth grade students, with class sizes of 34 to 36 students per classroom.

“Class size is a concern at all levels,” Teall said. “When we made our budget, we predicted a drop of 66 students, taking us to 1,791. As of this week, we currently have 1,785 enrolled.”

With several options in mind, such as making some split grade level classrooms, or waiting until the student count day on Oct. 3 to see the actual number of students, to adding supplementing at many grade levels, “we are watching the numbers very closely,” Teall said.

“If we can continue to monitor it closely, I think it is great to get these kids into the district at 4 years old,” said Board Vice President Bill Simpson. “We can always call a special meeting if Kristi feels the need, and look at all the options.”

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