In a move to more closely adhere to class-size policy and to avoid transferring students, the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education last week voted 6 to 1 to approve Superintendent Marth Ryan-Toye’s recommendation to create two new class sections at Central School this year.

With school starting on Thursday, one additional section of second grade and another section of third grade were created at Central. The move came after many Central School parents had urged the district to take steps to reduce class sizes at Central, particularly in second grade.

With the two new sections, all second and third grade classrooms at Central will conform to the district’s class-size guidelines of having no more than 20 students in kindergarten through third grade.

“I completely support this decision,” said Central parent Wendy Docktor, who has led the charge to reduce class sizes at Central. “It’s evident that everyone cares about all our students.”

Earlier this summer, Ryan-Toye and the school board had considered transferring some students new to Central School to Ames School to balance out enrollment. But ultimately they decided that it made more sense to squeeze in two new classrooms at Central.

There will now be four sections of second grade and four sections of third grade at Central School. Current projections indicate that both those grades will have two sections of 18 students and two sections with 19 students.

At Ames School, the three second-grade sections are projected to have 17 students each while the three third-grade sections are projected to be at 21 students each. At Blythe Park School 22 students are projected to be in the school’s only second-grade class, while 23 will be in the third-grade class. 

Hollywood School, like Blythe Park a one-section-per-grade school, will have the largest class sizes in the district, with 23 second-graders and 24 third-graders.

The school board unanimously approved class-size waivers for kindergarten through third grade at Hollywood, second through fifth grade at Blythe Park, and first and third grade at Ames. 

Two new teachers, both with about five years of teaching experience, were hired late last week to teach the new sections at Central School. The total cost of adding the new sections at Central will be between $114,000 and $183,000.

“It just seems like we’re spending a heck of a lot of money on Central,” said board member and Hollywood resident David Barsotti, who cast the only vote against creating the additional sections at Central. “It seems like we should be doing something for the other schools. I think all of our schools should be treated the same way.”

Hollywood School Principal Kim Hefner and Blythe Park Principal Casimira Gorman said they were confident that their teachers could handle the larger class sizes at their schools.

“The most important factor is the quality of the teacher,” Hefner said. 

Hefner will be assigning teacher aides full time to Hollywood’s first- and third-grade classrooms and half time in second grade. Gorman said she will wait until after the first week to school to determine how to deploy her teacher aides.

Central School will be jam packed this year. The two new classrooms at Central will be created by moving the gifted program to the third floor, displacing a special education office and technology staffers. 

One special education secretary will move to the district office, and the technology staffers are being moved to the stage craft room behind the Hauser auditorium. Another classroom will be gained by moving two special education teachers to what had been a conference room.