ROCKINGHAM -- The chairman of the Rockingham School Board said an anticipated spike in kindergarten students next year has forced the local supervisory union to research ways to accommodate the increase.
Chairman Jim "Jiggs" McAuliffe told the Reformer there are 71 children registered for kindergarten in the fall, though the school board prefers when that figure is around 60. He said Rockingham's three kindergarten classes -- two at Principal Nancy Erikson's Saxtons River Elementary School and one at Principal Keith Nemlich's Central Elementary -- ideally have 20 students each. McAuliffe said Erikson and Nemlich have expressed concern that the three classes would not be able to handle 71 children.
Windham Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Chris Kibbe said on Friday he had not yet conducted any research but said he soon will and he plans to present his findings at the Rockingham School Board's next meeting, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 16 at Central Elementary. He told the Reformer the research will consist mostly of "number-crunching."
Kibbe said the supervisory union keeps track of the number of 3 and 4 year olds in the areas so the administration knows what to expect in terms of enrollment well before parents register their children for kindergarten. He said annual school budgets are prepared the previous fall, which is the ideal time to plan for an extra teacher if necessary.
He also said a high number of registered kindergartners is not a dire problem -- just a situation that needs to be worked out.
The chairman said not expanding the number of kindergarten classes to four would mean having two classes of 24 and one with 23. He also said many of the 71 registered kindergartners are already on Individualized Education Plans because efforts are made to identify such children by the time they are 3 or 4 years old.
"We're looking at adding a fourth class. That's what's being researched," McAuliffe said. "We make decisions based on the recommendations of the administration."
He told the Reformer he does not know why the registered number of kindergartners is so high, but mentioned sometimes there is simply a slight jump. He said the figures predict there will be roughly 110 students at Saxtons River Elementary, 185 at Central and 250 at Bellows Falls Middle School (which goes up to eighth grade) in the next academic year.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.