Letter to the Editor

Move Fourth Graders out of Portables into Lamprey River Elementary School -   5-1-18
Submitted by Susan Caldwell - Raymond

A version of this letter was sent to the Raymond School Board on March 27, 2018. Since then, details below have been added.

As you are aware, there has been an issue with space for the fourth grade in the Lamprey River Elementary School for some years now. It came to my attention when the addition to the school was proposed because it would significantly increase my taxes. Thankfully many other taxpayers agreed with my position, and let the school board know that we can’t afford this expense. However, to date no one has proposed a satisfactory solution to the problem.

I decided to do some research to determine if I could provide a reasonable solution.  After reviewing the floor plan for the Middle School and speaking to the principal I felt there wasn’t sufficient room there for the fourth graders.

I then obtained:

•the floor plan for the Lamprey River Elementary School which also included the grade numbers and number of students per room.

•a listing of the square footage for each of the classrooms within the building (room 1 is 621 square feet, room 2 is 1,072 square feet, room 3 is 665 square feet, rooms 5-24 are each 900 square feet, rooms 50-53 are each 1,072 square feet, room 54 is 1,138 square feet and room 55 is 1,072 square feet).

• the New Hampshire Education Department’s (NHED) classroom space requirements ( Per Ed 321.10  Standards for Educational Space
(g)  Kindergarten classroom, at least 1,000 square feet, including storage, or 50 square feet per child, whichever is greater.
(h)  Elementary and middle schools, a general purpose classroom shall provide a minimum of 900 square feet, including storage, or 36 square feet per child, whichever is greater.)

•NHED student/teacher ratio recommendations and requirements. Per  Ed 306.17 Class Size. Class size for instructional purposes in each school shall be:
Kindergarten-grade 2:  25 students or fewer per educator, provided that each school shall strive to achieve the class size of 20 students or fewer per educator;
Grades 3-5: 30 students or fewer per educator, provided that each school shall strive to achieve the class size of 25 students or fewer per educator.

I was able to determine the current average student/teacher ratio per grade. {Kindergarten: 14:1, First grade: 15:1, Second grade: 15:1, Third grade: 23:1, and Fourth grade: 21:1.

•Data from the NHED’s website for student/teacher ratios for grades 1-4 for individual towns throughout Rockingham County (Given that the ratio for the third and fourth grade is relatively reasonable, I focused on the data for the first and second grades. Rockingham County towns with ratios higher than Raymond for both first and second grade are: Allenstown, Amherst, Atkinson, Auburn, Candia, Chester, Deerfield, Epping, Exeter, Hampton, Kensington, Londonderry, Plaistow, Portsmouth, Sandown and Stratham.

My results:

Based on the New Hampshire Department of Education classroom space requirements, there is sufficient space to house the fourth graders in the Lamprey River Elementary School.

Redistributing the students from the Kindergarten through second grade [third grade is already at maximum) based on my figures would free up enough classroom space to allow the fourth graders to move back into the building and provide an additional two rooms. As this change wouldn’t take place until September 2018, the third graders now at 23:1 in four rooms would then become the fourth graders needing only four rooms.

The K-3 grades would by my proposal then only require four rooms each. The ratios would then become; 21:1, 21:1, 23:1, and 23:1 respectively. This is above the Board rules (As a general guideline, the Raymond School Board supports the following maximum class sizes:
a. Preschool/Kindergarten: 15 students per class;
b. Grades 1 through 3, 18 students per class;
c. Grades 4 through 8: 22 students per class), but consistent or below the current third grade ratio, well within the NH Department of Education recommendations and consistent with many of the school districts within Rockingham County see above). 

In my opinion current rules create an unreasonable burden for the taxpayer by leaving no options for resolving this problem other than building an addition, which the taxpayers have indicated they can’t afford, and therefore is beyond the financial ability of the District.

Following the board meeting, Ms. Caldwell wrote:

I want to thank the School Board and the Superintendent of Schools for allowing me to read this letter and speak at the School Board meeting on April 4, 2018. A video of this meeting can be viewed by the public. My proposal met with a great deal of opposition. My feeling after the discussion, based on statements made by Lamprey River Elementary School principal Bryan Belanger -  “It’s not uncommon to put through multiple proposals before one goes through” - and that of School Board Vice Chair Joseph Saulnier - “57 percent voted for the addition the first time and 59 percent the second time, even though the proposal went up by $1 million)” - was they (the School Board, Superintendent of Schools and the LRES principal) were confident that if they continued to propose the addition to taxpayers enough times, it would be voted in. I believe this will only be the case if the taxpayers feel there is no alternative. Therefore I wanted to make sure that the taxpayers know that there is a viable, workable option that will not increase taxes.

Alternate proposal. If the current trend of a decrease in students continues with the incoming Kindergarten class, a slight redistribution of students, which would only be slightly above the Board rules for the Kindergarten class, would still provide enough room for the fourth graders to move into the building. By this redistribution the ratios for K-3 would be: 17:1, 17:1, 17:1, 19:1, with grade four remaining at the grade 3 ratio of 23:1.






































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