Parents fear kids will suffer in overcrowded classrooms in Wilton

Some parents in Wilton, Iowa, are fighting increased class sizes that school district officials say is likely to happen.

The district plans to divide its 61 enrolled first graders into two classes, putting 30 students in one classroom and 31 in another.

“They’re going to spend most of their time managing the class and not necessarily instructing,” said Sara Shirk, whose kids are in the district.  She says she’s concerned that kids who are still adjusting to expectations at school won’t get the attention they need.

Across the state of Iowa, the average class size is only 20 students.

“It scares me that, by putting 12 more than the state average in our classrooms, our quality of education’s gonna go down. We’re not going to give them what they need,” said Shirk.

Some parents have joined a Facebook page encouraging each other to talk with the school board about their concerns.

Shirk says adding another teacher could solve the problem, but Wilton Superintendent Joe Burnett says that’s easier said than done.

“At the end of the day we want to do what’s best for the students, but we also have to balance our books,” said Burnett.

Burnett says the district is getting less money from the state, while employment costs are going up and enrollment is down. There are two options on the table.

“If we reach the 65 students that are here for registration for first grade in August, they will hire a third teacher,” said Burnett.

If that number’s not reached, the board will go to plan B, hiring two para-educators for each class.

“I’m confident that we will meet their needs, and I’m confident the quality of education that we’ve had will continue,” said Burnett.

“There comes a point where our children’s education, the risk of jeopardizing our future becomes more important than any budget issues,” said Shirk.

The issue is expected to be raised at Wilton’s next school board meeting Monday, July 14, 2014.

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