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March 9, 2013

Classroom size factors into Lockley construction project

NEW CASTLE — The Lockley Early Learning Center architect says there will be room in the school to accommodate smaller class sizes after consolidation.

David A. Esposito, with Eckles Architecture and Engineering, said extra class-sized rooms have been included in the plans for each grade for enrichment and remedial purposes, and those could be used as classrooms for a couple of years until enrollment figures drop.

Members of the New Castle school board had expressed alarm at their Feb. 26 meeting after seeing current enrollment figures that indicate the planned learning center might not be large enough.

The higher enrollment, if it continues for two more years, could result in class sizes of as many as 28 students in the primary grades, according to projections provided at that meeting by acting superintendent Stanley Magusiak.

Both Magusiak and the board members agree class size in the lower grade levels should be limited to the low 20s.

“I don’t want to see 28 students in classes for first and second grades,” Magusiak said. “We’ve been running around 23 to 25 and sometimes less than that for several years.”

He cautioned the figures he presented are not a true picture for when the school opens, because the district does not yet have the figures for 2014-15.

Should they remain at that level, the district will have to determine how to accommodate the students.

BACKGROUND

Based on a straw vote by the board Feb. 26, the consolidation would occur at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

The plans are to close the John F. Kennedy, West Side and Thaddeus Stevens elementary schools once the Lockley Early Learning Center is completed and house all kindergarten, first- and second-grade students there.

Teachers would bid for jobs at the new school and it would open for the 2014-15 year.

The tentative plan is to put third-grade classes at George Washington Intermediate School, which currently houses grades four, five and six.

While there is speculation of a shortage of classrooms there, Magusiak reasoned there were 37 classes in 1988-89 when the school was remodeled, and now there are 27. So there should be 10 classrooms available in the building to accommodate the incoming third-graders.

He said Joe Anderson, building principal, is assessing classroom space there to make the needed accommodations.

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