The Orange Board of Education’s decision to combine three third-grade classes into two left many parents dissatisfied and voicing their concerns at the board’s June meeting. Roughly 30 parents attended the meeting.
John Costanzo, father of an incoming third grader at Turkey Hill appealed to the board to rethink the decision. “I’m a little upset with this in many different ways,” he said. “This will bring the class to 21, if given the same exact enrollment numbers as second grade. Why are we increasing the class size from 14 to 21? That’s a 50% increase. That will definitely impact their learning.”
Costanzo asked the board to look into the matter again, and consider that Turkey Hill third-grade classes typically have 15 or 16 children. “I want my child moving on through fourth, fifth and sixth grade to get the same education that my daughter did as did many other kids,” he said.
Michelle Pergolitti, a Turkey Hill mom also spoke to the board, “I’m in the school a lot and I know these kids. If you take these kids and group them into two groups, you’re making a big mistake. These kids need to be in three groups. I will be very upset and disappointed. Once you take that away from us, you will not give it back to us.”
Bobby Ricciardi, former board of education member and Turkey Hill parent, asked Dr. Scarpetti and the board to continue to work on policy on classroom sizes, primarily for the first, second and third grade, which he calls a ‘key developmental time for young learners’. “We’re looking at 21 students in a class right now, and with more coming on board, we could be teetering at 22 or 23 students and we’re starting to do a disservice to these young learners,” he said.
“We all moved to Orange for good classroom sizes. I understand that small classroom sizes aren’t necessarily a productive tool, but now we’re starting to edge towards the numbers that cities in Connecticut are at. I ask all of you to please strongly consider that approach as the numbers still come in. It’s a great school district and a great school with great teachers and great administrators. Let’s not deprive our young learners the opportunity to have the focus that other students in the town have.”
Mara Saccente, a Peck Place parent and board of education member agreed and said she wanted to raise her children in Orange because of the quality of Orange Schools. “It was five years ago that I attended my first board of education meeting, testifying on the same issue with class sizes at Peck Place and the lack of any clear policy or guidelines. I was proud that last year we were able to secure additional teachers and stick to Orange’s small class sizes. As a parent and a board member, I am disappointed that we continue to have uncertainty at the start of each school year. It is imperative that we have guidelines for class sizes so that we all have clarity on our approach to class size.”
Vince Scarpetti. Superintendent of Schools said he had received emails from parents that he planned to share at the upcoming Policy Sub-Committee meeting and thanked parents for attending and speaking. The board will continue to review the policy on classroom sizes.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent