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5th kindergarten teacher to be hired in Perham

With 87 kids currently enrolled in kindergarten at Perham's Heart of the Lakes Elementary School, the school board has approved the hire of a fifth kindergarten teacher.

The additional section will drop the student-per-classroom ratio down to three sections of 17 and two sections of 18 students, instead of three rooms with 21 and one with 22.

This is the third consecutive year Perham will offer a fifth section of kindergarten.

At a special board meeting Aug. 1, elementary principal Kari Yates asked the board to establish a firm stance on future kindergarten class sizes.

A kindergarten class size policy would help administrators and teachers assure inquiring parents that class sizes would never get too high, Yates said. She explained that parents start calling the school as early as February to start asking about class sizes for the next school year.

Currently, school staff is not sure what to tell these parents, except that if enrollment gets too high, more teachers will be considered.

Having a firm policy would also help the school hire additional teachers earlier, she said, instead of waiting until August.

"Smaller class size is always effective if you have a quality teacher," Yates said. However, "our teacher's jobs are not easily replicated," and thus finding quality teachers too late in the summer is sometimes difficult.

It takes a lot of staff development to make that high quality teacher, and teachers hired late may be missing out on important training days, she added.

No policy was immediately instated, but the board agreed to talk about class sizes at a future meeting.

Discussions about hiring additional teachers for first and second grades also took place; however those hires were not approved because of budget restraints. As it stands, the first and second grade classrooms will have an average of 22 kids per class, in four sections.

Building limitations also played into the conversation. The elementary school has room for a fifth section of kindergarten and possibly one more classroom. Otherwise, the school is maxed out, Yates said.