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Paint Creek parents worry about 5th grade



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Michelle Kolp, Paint Creek Elem. Parent Teacher Organization President explains parent concerns to Lake Orion Community Schools Superintendent Marion Ginopolis. photo by D. Rush (click for larger version)
June 22, 2011 - Their concerns are legitimate. Their concerns were shared. Their concerns were heard loud and clear Monday night at a Parent Teacher Organization meeting. But, what will be done about their concerns?

What are their concerns?

"Our concern," Michelle Kolp, president of the Paint Creek Elementary PTO told schools Superintendent Marion Ginopolis, "Is that this is such a pivotal year. They are growing, but they are not grown. This is a transition year for students, the following year they will be in middle school."

In other words, 30 kids to one fifth grade teacher is too many.

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Kol, invited Ginopolis to their meeting to answer parent questions and to hear their concerns.

According to Kolp, next school year there will be three fifth grade classes — two classes of 30 students, one class of 31. These same kids, as fourth graders were divided into four classrooms. According to district structure guidelines, for the fifth grade, the optimal class size is 28 — anything larger is considered an "overload."

Ginopolis told the 50 or so parents in attendance that she agreed with them and shared their concerns, but repeatedly said until she had a better grasp of the school's overall attendance for next fall, she couldn't make promises that class sizes for the fifth graders would change.

"We cannot staff in June for September when we don't know the numbers . . . I don't like to sound wishy-washy, but I cannot come here and add another staff person. If I do it for Paint Creek, I will have to do it for all the other schools. We haven't got the money."

There are three options the district can look into in deciding the fate of the 91 fifth graders: they can take away teaching staff from other grades to add a fourth, fifth grade class; institute a split-class; or add another full time person — which won't happen unless student population increases significantly.

Overall at Paint Creek, Ginopolis said, the student to teacher ratio is 24.8 to one; Orion-Oaks is 25-to-1; Webber, 25.5-to-1; Stadium, 26.5-to-1. The district's other two elementary schools receive federal grants, which helps keep their ratio even lower.

Tonight (Wednesday) the Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education is slated to approve their 2011-2012 operating budget, with $4.6 million in spending reductions.

"In all my years of public education," Ginopolis said, "I have never seen such a cut (in per pupil spending from the state) as we've just seen."

Ginopolis warned parents that if the district does not act proactively and boldly the bad situation will get worse. She said within a few weeks a special task force would convene that will tackle these issues.

"If we don't do something now, short term planning and long term — if we don't do something different, it will get worse. There could be 45 kids in a classroom. Everybody will think 30 kids (in one classroom) would be a blessing."

As part of budget reductions, the number of staff at Paint Creek went from 21 to 19, Principal Lauren Smith informed Ginopolis at the meeting, also saying that, historically, a better time to determine enrollment is in the beginning of August.

Ginopolis told parents she will discuss their concerns with Principal Smith this week and come up with a "master plan" for Paint Creek by mid-August

Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: don@dontrushmedon.com
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