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Centre USD 397 to combine two grades

Staff writer

With a total of only 18 students expected in first and second grades, Centre will combine the two under a single teacher and a full-time aide this fall.

“You have to be creative to have a viable school district,” Superintendent Susan Beeson said. “I would say consolidation is right around the corner if we don’t implement some positive practices.”

Two dozen parents and teachers discussed Beeson’s plan Thursday, some questioning how two curricula could be taught in one classroom.

Beeson replied that research indicated student achievement was the same in single-grade and combined-grade classrooms.

She said she would recommend that second-grade teacher Candace Tajchman be in charge of the combined classroom.

“Candace is a strong, veteran teacher who has been with the district for more than 20 years and is well-organized,” she said. “She would do a great job.”

Beeson will recommend reassigning current first-grade teacher Brianna Methvin to kindergarten and current kindergarten teacher Alex Cain to share responsibilities for fifth grade.

Without combining the grades, first grade would have only six students, the number now in kindergarten.

This, Beeson said, would be neither efficient nor effective.

Combining the grades will offer “a wonderful opportunity” to demonstrate how differential instruction can go on in one room with a teacher and an aide, she said.

Teachers generally spoke in support, envisioning opportunities for learning and social development by having such things as older students reading to younger students.

School board approval is not required.

Beeson encouraged parents to explain the change to children before school and to visit the classroom with them this summer.

“Change is always difficult,” she said, “but be open-minded and give us an opportunity to move forward.”

Beeson also will recommend addition of a half-day preschool three days a week.

Last modified Feb. 24, 2016

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