8 new teachers join SD2 ranks

2012-08-20T22:20:00Z 2012-08-21T11:01:09Z 8 new teachers join SD2 ranksBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

In an effort to tamp down on overcrowded classrooms, School District 2 will have eight new teachers in some of its elementary schools when classes resume this week.

The new teachers will head kindergarten through second-grade classes across the district in schools that have seen the most pronounced growth over the past year.

“They’ve ended up where we’ve had the greatest need,” said Brenda Koch, a district administrator.

Many of those schools, like Central Heights, Arrowhead and Meadowlark, are on the district’s west side.

Not set in stone

Still, nothing is quite set in stone yet.

With classes in the elementary schools starting Wednesday, students are still registering and more will trickle in after the school year starts.

Depending on where those students end up, some teachers still might be transferred.

“We move teachers,” said Kathy Olson, Koch’s cohort in administration.

An additional 14 teachers’ aides, who were hired to help cut down on overcrowded classrooms, won’t be assigned a school until after the new year.

The hiring of the additional teachers is an effort by the district to improve classroom conditions and avoid trouble with the state.

The district ran into accreditation trouble last year when it had more than 100 K-2 classrooms with more students than permitted by state accreditation standards.

SD2 faces similar class sizes as school begins this week. The state caps K-2 classrooms at 20 students. When class sizes balloon past that number, districts can face state discipline.

The class size problem isn’t new. SD2 has been juggling oversized classrooms for at least a decade.

Getting serious

SD2 was called before the state board this year as the Montana Office of Public Instruction and Board of Public Education look to get more serious about enforcing accreditation standards.

The board told SD2 administrators in July that it liked the district’s plan — which included the hiring of the new teachers — and that monitoring would continue.

The eight teachers join another 19 replacement teachers new to the district this year. Replacement teachers are those educators hired to fill vacancies left by retiring and resigning teachers from the previous school year.

Along with the replacement teachers are educators who have been transferred from another quarter of the district — specialists who get moved back into the classroom.

The district, which saw surprising student growth last year, is anticipating another bump in enrollment this year.

Student growth

District officials said they expected to see 3 percent growth — 325 more students — in the elementary school population for the 2012-13 school year.

The official enrollment count happens in early October, but officials are hoping to have a good idea of how many new students SD2 will have by Labor Day.

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