Apshawa gets three 1st grades

New enrollments allow district to increase number of classes


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Apshawa School will be getting a third section for the first grade when school begins in September.

West Milford Superintendent of Schools Dr. James McLaughlin made the announcement at Tuesday's board of education meeting. He said the district recently received two more registrations for first grade at Apshawa School. Those registrations raised the number of students enrolled to 51, which is above the district’s recommended number of pupils desired per class to be between 20 and 23 students for kindergarten through third grade, with a recommended maximum of 25 students.

Apshawa parents attended the May 27 meeting of the West Milford Board of Education requesting a third section for the grade. Parent AnnMarie Polglaze spoke on behalf of the students and their parents, and said Apshawa School has the classroom space and staff available to continue with three classes for the incoming first graders for next year. At the time she spoke, the enrollment number was at 49. Having three sections would keep the class sizes smaller with approximately 16 to 17 students in each class with room to accommodate new, incoming students, as opposed to the 24 to 25 students that would be in two classrooms, possibly with a class aide. She asked the board to “look beyond the numbers.”

“Our students have flourished in their current class size," said Polglaze at the time. "The student-teacher ratio created unimaginable opportunities for our students to learn. Our students deserve this opportunity to continue.”

She said parents are concerned that the larger class size could be overwhelming for the students, create greater distraction, and negatively affect their social growth. “First grade is an important start to an educational career. It is the footing upon which all else is built,” Polglaze told the Board. She added that in light of new state standards for the new common core curriculum, evaluations, student growth objectives and PARCC testing, “teacher responsibility has grown, class size should not.” Polglaze said they have the ability to keep the three classes- with the available space, staff and budget to do so.

In May, McLaughlin told The Messenger, “All grade level sections for all schools will continue to be monitored, particularly kindergarten and first grade where incoming students are the most likely. Decisions to add sections would most likely be determined by the July (board of education) meeting in order to provide enough time to hire and allow teachers the prep time to begin the new school year.”

A couple of the Apshawa parents in attendance at Tuesday's meeting were visibly pleased with the announcement to add the third section, quietly clapping, big smiles on their faces.

- Patricia Keller

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