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Lower class-size limit OK'd for second grades

Updated 8:51 am, Wednesday, February 6, 2013
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Second-grade classes next year will have a new, lower limit of 22 students after the Board of Education unanimously approved revisions to the school district's class-size guidelines this week

The board's decision Monday night aligns the school district's second-grade class-size guidelines with its 22-pupil limit for kindergarten and first-grade classes. As many as 25 pupils are currently allowed in a second-grade class.

Enacting a 22-student limit for second-grade classes led the board to also approve Monday the allocation of an additional $81,000 in next year's budget for additional teaching staff to accommodate the lower class-size cap.

The change to the class-size guidelines was expected, after board members expressed backing last week for a proposal by Michael McGovern, the board's vice chairman, to set a 22-pupil cap for second-grade classes.

Class sizes in Westport public schools have been frequently debated in recent years by Board of Education members and parents. During the board's budget proceedings last year, board Secretary Michael Gordon unsuccessfully proposed to raise education spending by $180,000 to reduce class sizes. At a May 2012 meeting, Gordon again sought to implement lower class-size limits, but was turned down by board colleagues, who expressed concerns about the cost of his plan. Since then, a number of parents have frequently expressed their own worries about class sizes.

Several parents of elementary-school students voiced support for the lower class sizes at Monday's meeting.

"Having the smaller sizes at the second-grade level is really fundamental," said Amy Saperstein, the mother of a second-grader and kindergartner at Long Lots Elementary School. "At those younger ages is when the kids are really developing their fundamentals in all of the key categories. That's the time when I feel like the ratio is so, so important, so the kids can get the attention that they need."

Micole Bag, who recently moved with her family to Westport from Greenwich's Riverside section, expressed a similar viewpoint.

"One of the main reasons my husband and I decided to move to Westport is because we heard that Westport schools were incredible," said Bag, who has a third-grader and kindergartener at Long Lots. "When I heard that class size is an issue, I was a little surprised. Obviously Westport is a big draw for people from the city and even for people like me from Greenwich. I think keeping the class sizes low for second grade and below is a huge draw for people coming into Westport."

Class-size guidelines for all other grades will remain unchanged. Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classes can have as many 25 students. The town's two middle schools operate with a different format, allowing for as many as 110 students in a grade's "team" or subgroup. School district officials seek to schedule no more than 25 students in most Staples High School classes, but it allows classes with as many 30 pupils at the high school.

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott