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'Baby boomlet' hits grades K-3 in Carbon

Students in Deanne Bettino's Kindergarten class at Castle Heights Elementary play during freetime on Monday morning. Bettino has 26 students in her class and a few of them are on a half day schedule. The district as a whole has a lot of Kindergartners this year. Castle Heights has a total of four classes of the young students.

Sun Advocate publisher

Extra aides helping in some classes

The belief that school districts in Utah only provide full day kindergarten for students was dispelled on Wednesday night when the Carbon School District Board of Education met at their monthly meeting and Board President Wayne Woodward brought up the subject.

"Let me throw this out there," he said after explaining that he had talked to some parents who wondered about their kids not fitting into full day sessions at their young age. "I got some feedback from some parents at Castle Heights Elementary that they would like a choice for half day kindergarten classes. What about that?"

The district's elementary supervisor, Joan Atwood quickly responded from the audience by saying "They already have that choice."

At that many of the board members were taken back. They thought that all day kindergarten was the district standard.

"We have always allowed that," said Atwood. "The classes go all day, but parents can elect to have their children in the morning session only. Teachers in each school are encouraged to do their set core curriculum in the morning so that it fits children whose parents elect for the half day."

She went on to explain that usually they only get two or three requests a year for that option, but it is available.

"However, the parents must provide the transportation home when they only are there for half day classes," she told the board.

Woodward said the concerns came from various parents, and that one had told him their child had fallen asleep on the bus on the way home relating that a full day is too much for such young children.

Full day kindergartens were instituted in schools in Utah many years ago, so the idea that half days still can exist seemed foreign to almost everyone in attendance.

"Actually what we find is that parents who go for this option change their minds later in the year and often put their kids back in full day classes," stated Atwood.

The board also discussed enrollment figures for the school year as well. Some surprises have hit the district this year.

"We had an unusual bounce in kindergarten numbers this year in the district," said Carbon District Superintendent Steve Carlsen. "We have 284 students in kindergartens around the district. That concerns us when it comes to keeping class numbers low."

Based on space available and teachers the kindergartens are averaging 23 students per classroom. But there are exceptions.

"At Castle Heights Elementary there are no more classrooms available, so we have 25-26 in those classrooms," said Carlsen.

Carbon faces the dilemma most school districts face at one time or another with declining enrollments in one school and growing enrollments in another. While Castle Heights has no extra space, Wellington Elementary has three classrooms that are not being used.

"In the classrooms with larger student count we have increased the number of teachers aides," stated the superintendent.

In another move because of school enrollment the district has transferred one first grade teacher from Wellington to a Sally Mauro kindergarten class. The board was advised that while that teacher had been teaching first grade at Wellington, she had also taught kindergarten in the past.

But even with the high kindergarten numbers, that wasn't the biggest surprise of the new school year. Third grades across the district account for 319 students, a bump up that is a bulge in the system. If those numbers hold up through high school the present first, second and third grade classes when they reach Carbon High will account for a total of 891 students, giving the district high schools the largest student body they have seen in years. Carbon High and Lighthouse High School together have 627 students enrolled. Those graduating classes would also be very large compared to Carbon's 208 and Lighthouse's 18 last spring.

It also appears that a preschool class at Castle Valley Center will be moved to Wellington Elementary where there is more room to accommodate them as well.

As the number change for the year and next year more adjustments in teachers and spaces may be needed according to district officials.

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