Re-2 forced to hire additional kindergarten teachers
Garfield School District Re-2 had an unexpected explosion in the number of kindergartners registered this year. That meant class sizes were big – too big. The district has hired two new teachers since Labor Day and is still looking for one more.It’s uncommon for a district to hire teachers after the start of the school year, said Theresa Hamilton, Re-2 director of districtwide services. But Re-2 tries to keep kindergarten class sizes around 20 students per class. “We were just bombarded with kindergartners this year,” Hamilton said.At the start of this year, kindergarten classes at Wamsley Elementary School had 30 students in them. Classes at Highland and Kathryn Senor elementary schools had between 25 and 30 students each.Hamilton couldn’t wager a guess as to where all of the new kindergartners came from, but said other grade levels did not experience the same unexpected growth.”It’s always kind of a shotgun in the dark, determining how many kindergartners there will be,” said Peg Connealy, the new principal at Highland. She said the schools have kindergarten round-up events in the spring and gather everyone they know about. They also look at the previous year’s enrollments and preschool numbers.”There was some concern we might get more kindergartners,” Connealy said. “But we still hadn’t seen the whites of their eyes.”The district couldn’t justify hiring new teachers until after Labor Day as families tend to move in and out of the area at that time of year, Connealy and Hamilton said.”There was a shift this year,” Connealy said. “But those who left were replaced with new students and our numbers stayed steady.”It’s not only rare for a school district to look for new teachers after the start of the school year, but it’s also rare for teachers to look for jobs after the start of the school year.”Trying to pick up teachers after Labor Day is extremely difficult,” Hamilton said. “We’re very fortunate we’ve found the teachers we hired.”Karen McClung, the new kindergarten teacher at Wamsley, is not new to teaching or to the district. She retired from teaching first grade three years ago, after about 20 years at Roy Moore Elementary School in Silt.”I’m the lucky one,” McClung said of landing her role as a full-time kindergarten teacher with two classes of 18 each. “I was enjoying my retirement, but I really missed the children.”McClung visited the existing kindergarten classes and had a snack with the kids to get to know them last week. She started teaching Monday.”It’s going smoothly so far,” McClung said. “The kids are adjusting to me, and I’m adjusting to teaching again.”McClung is not sure what she and her husband plan to do after this school year, but she thinks this will just be a break from retirement, and she’ll probably get back to work relaxing next year.Connealy hired Lacey Oldland, a young teacher who student taught in Meeker last year, to fill the half-time position at Highland. Oldland also started at the end of last week, meeting students and working with the other kindergarten teachers. She started teaching Monday. Her classes meet Mondays, Wednesdays and half days on Fridays.Connealy sent letters home to parents at the end of last week, asking them to consider letting their children start in the new class.”It was great to see parents agree to that so willingly, especially since they did it knowing it was the best thing for all of the students,” she said.Kate O’Brien is one of the two kindergarten teachers Oldland relieved. She had 27 students in her two kindergarten classes.”It was exhausting,” said O’Brien, who now has only 20 students, a more typical number. “It’s so much easier to manage now. I’m able to give them all more personal attention, and they’re calmer simply because there are fewer bodies in the room. It’s a much better learning environment.”Contact Amanda Holt Miller, 625-3245 ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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