SANDWICH — When the Inter-Lakes School Board meets next week it will consider a request from John Hansen, principal of the Sandwich Central School, to hire a teacher to cope with the excessive number of pupils enrolled in the current fourth and fifth grade classroom.
Although enrollment has shrunk steadily across the district during the past five years, 27 pupils are enrolled in those two grades. Hansen said that the total number — 13 in the fourth grade and 14 in the fifth grade — is a third more than the ideal of 18, which has posed challenges for the teacher, Mary Beaudoin, and crowded the 900-square-foot classroom.
Hansen said that a handful of parents expressed concerns and the situation was discussed with parents at a meeting in December. To lighten the teacher's responsibilities the sixth grade mathematics teacher is instructing the fifth grade pupils. Moreover, for about six weeks a special educator taught reading and language arts to fourth, fifth and sixth grade pupils. Hansen said that steps have also been taken to ease the pressure on the limited space by offering instruction in other rooms. He estimated that all the pupils are together in one room for about half the school day, conceding that even half the day with the 27 pupils, teacher and para educator in the same room was trying for all.
Hansen said that since discussing the situation with the school board last month he has interviewed several prospective teachers and, if the board approves his request, is prepared to move fairly quickly. He said that the fourth and fifth grade class would be split into two classes with pupils in each grade in both classes.
In November, 2005 a committee projected future enrollment in the district. Hansen remembered that enrollment at Sandwich Central School was forecast to reach the "high 50s" and remarked "we've got 72 in kindergarten through sixth grade right now." He suggested the recession contributed to the rising enrollment as house prices in the town fell to within reach of homebuyers and some young families returned to Sandwich to live with their parents.
Ironically, not so long ago the School Board was concerned that the declining enrollment at Sandwich Central School may not warrant the cost of operating the school and contemplated asking the Sandwich property taxpayers to pay a surcharge in return for keeping the school open.
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