By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — If the enrollment holds in second grade at Colfax Elementary, the school district’s administrative team now has the ability to hire a third teacher for second grade this fall.
The Colfax Board of Education authorized hiring another second grade teacher at the August 15 meeting.
As of August 15, first grade had 55 students, second grade had 57 students and third grade also had 57 students.
Another second grade teacher would be warranted with the number of students, said Bill Yingst, district administrator.
Over the past five years, the school district has not replaced five teachers who have retired, he noted.
Last year, the school district had three teachers for first grade and for third grade, but only two teachers for second grade.
“We would like to get the latitude if the numbers hold true in the next week to add another second grade teacher,” Yingst said.
Hiring another teacher, considering both salary and benefits, will cost between $60,000 and $80,000, depending upon the experience level of the teacher hired, he said.
“It will be a squeeze on the budget, but we can do it,” Yingst said.
“The lower grades are a bad place to skimp,” said Ken Bjork, school board member.
In first, second and third grade, students are learning the basics of reading and math, and “we do not want to cut them short,” he said.
If an extra teacher was needed at the high school, Bjork said he would be more hesitant about hiring another staff member.
If the administration needs to hire another teacher, the school board should give them that ability, said Todd Kragness, school board president.
Dividing the second grade into three sections would put 19 students in each classroom, said Trevor Hovde, Colfax Elementary principal.
With two teachers for second grade, one classroom would have 28 students, and the other classroom would have 29, he noted.
In 1996-97, the state of Wisconsin implemented the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program to improve student achievement in the lower grades from kindergarten to third through smaller class sizes of 18 students to one teacher or 30 students to two teachers. The SAGE program will be phased out by the end of the 2017-2018 school year and is now transitioning to the Achievement Gap Reduction program.
Although Colfax is not part of the SAGE program, the state’s commitment to smaller class sizes in the lower grades by paying an additional $2,250 for each eligible low-income child emphasizes the importance of small class sizes on student achievement.
The Colfax Board of Education unanimously approved a motion to give the administrative team the latitude to hire another second grade teacher this fall if needed.
Voting in favor of the motion were Bjork, Kragness and school board members Kyle Knutson, Christie Hill, Jodi Kiekhafer and Andrew De Moe. School board member Ken Neuburg was absent from the meeting.