To the editor:
I would like to respond to the comment in Saturday's Open Line from a citizen who is concerned about the closing of Union Elementary School. As a teacher in the Mifflin County School District, I can tell you that no Mifflin County educator voted to close Union. That decision was made by a vote of the nine elected school board members on the recommendations and findings of the central administrators and other non-teaching professionals.
As to being "frustrated and sad," I would like to share with you some facts about another school in the Mifflin County School District. I teach third grade at Lewistown Elementary School. My school services kindergarten to third grade and has a student population of 632. That's 632 children nine years of age and under. Each of our six third grade classes has either 27 or 28 students. The average LES class size for the 26 classes is 24 students. When I or one of my colleagues has recess duty (which is one teacher for three or four classes of students from the same grade level) we are supervising more students than are in the entire student population of Union Elementary.
LES has seven kindergarten classes with a total of 170 students in contrast to Union with nine students.
While it is true Union started the school year with 28 students in first grade, LES has seven first grade classrooms with an average of 22 students per teacher. They will most likely be divided into six second grade classes for next year, significantly raising the number of students per classroom.
The classroom populations at LES also include a cross section of students who fall on the autism spectrum, speak English as a second language, have Individualized Education Plans based on physical and/or mental criteria, as well as students who, at all grade levels, have not been potty trained. Some are because of medical conditions and are attended by health-care aides, but there are others who are the responsibility of the classroom teacher and school nurse.
Our students at LES come to us from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds and experiences. As professionals, the faculty and staff of my building are doing our best to meet the needs of our students and the challenges presented to us.
Do I wish my students at LES had the opportunity to be educated in a classroom with nine students? Absolutely. Unfortunately, due to the economics of today, that is not possible in public education. Since school age children neither vote nor contribute to political causes, legislators at the state and national levels would rather please big business and the private sector than provide funding for local districts to give students a fair and equitable education.
While you are frustrated and sad that the students at Union will need to endure a longer bus ride, perhaps it should be viewed as an opportunity to broaden your students' experiences. Please rest assured that the teachers who will be educating your children in their new school will do so with professionalism and clarity of purpose, which is to prepare each student to meet life's challenges.
Third Grade Teacher
Lewistown Elementary School