NEW MILFORD — Northville Elementary School will get a seventh second-grade class, which will allow for smaller class sizes and brings it on par with the district’s other primary school.

“We need to do what’s best for our students,” board member Tammy McInerney said.

The Board of Education unanimously approved adding the teaching position and setting the maximum salary at $60,000.

The suggestion came from interim Superintendent Stephen Tracy and the operations committee forwarded it to the full board.

Northville has six second-grade classes with 23 to 24 students each. Hill and Plain School has seven second-grade classes with about 18 students in each, said Doranne Koval, a second-grade teacher at Northville.

She said adding the class will put all second-graders on a level playing field and eliminates the disadvantage to Northville students.

“We have a moral and ethical responsibility to our students,” Koval said. “We have a real fear that with these circumstances we’re going to fail to meet that.”

Board members lamented the timing and said they should have acted earlier in the year, especially because at the end of the school year they saw indications class sizes might be high.

Tracy said he will work with Northville staff to create and balance the new class while incorporating volunteers. During the meeting, one parent already volunteered her child be one among those moved because she said it will help her daughter, her friends’ children and future grades.

Parents have expressed concerns to board members about moving their children at this point in the school year, but members said the second-grade team at the school will help make the students feel special and support the new teacher.

“I feel they’re going to make this work,” board member J.T. Schemm said.

Board member Angela Chastain was concerned adding the position now would set a bad precedent.

Both Chastain and board member Wendy Faulenbach said they were opposed to adding the class, but changed their opinions during the discussions.

Earlier in the meeting, several teachers and parents urged the board to add the seventh class.

Connie Williams, one of the second-grade teachers, said when she started teaching in New Milford 18 years ago, the learning gap between her students wasn’t very wide and she was able to teach to the average learner. Now she has students spanning from kindergarten to fourth-grade reading levels and students adding with their fingers and another who can multiply negative integers.

She said teaching has changed and smaller class sizes are needed to help students learn. Teachers spend a lot of one-to-one time with the students so they can get to know them and help them set goals.

“Higher class sizes are not educationally sound,” Williams said.

Other teachers said smaller class sizes in the younger grades is even more important because the primary grades set the foundations and determine the abilities of students’ learning careers.

kkoerting@newstimes.com