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Thursday, December 18, 2014
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Alex Costello/Herald
Parent Denis Tarpey addressed the Board of Education, asking why Hewitt Elementary School couldn’t have another class added next year.

“Historically, it’s always been the 26th child that starts the discussion,” Dion said. “Whether it’s splitting or adding a [teaching assistant], it’s the 26th child. Prior to the 26th child, we’ve never had that discussion. It’s never been our procedure to talk about splitting when it’s been 25 children or less. And basically, they’re asking us to split classes with 25 or 24 because they have the room.”

“For my kids to be in a class with 26 children scares me,” said Jennifer Papadapolous. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I have only the highest expectations for my children.”

Splitting a section of 26 or more students into two smaller classes isn’t the district’s first choice, Dion explained. Sometimes, instead of adding another class, the district will hire a teaching assistant to work in the larger class. The T.A.s the district hires are all certified teachers, and are often eventually hired by the district.

According to Dion, the district budgeted for a total of 77 sections but is only planning 76 right now. So, if it has to add another teacher, it has the money set aside to do so. Teachers are more expensive than T.A.s, however: The district budgets about $80,000 for a starting teacher, including salary and benefits, while a T.A. costs around $30,000.

Though Hewitt’s kindergarten and second grade classes have not yet exceeded 25 students, some parents argued that they knew of more students who would be entering second grade but had not yet registered. “I’m very concerned and troubled that we’re going to turn our teachers into babysitters,” said parent Maura Russell. “I don’t want this to be just a Hewitt issue. If [the schools] have the space, and the numbers are where they are right now, they should really consider breaking them out. The kids deserve better than what this is going to give them.”

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