Region 12 school board talks class mergers in Bridgewater’s Burnham School
WASHINGTON — Region 12 school officials are considering merging more classes in Bridgewater’s Burnham School. The school, with a total enrollment of 47 students, has class sizes as small as five and has already combined kindergarten and first grade.
No action was taken at a meeting last week, but school board members and some residents in attendance backed a proposal to combine kindergarten, first grade and second grade next fall. This year, “one-dergarten” has 11 students and there are five children in second. A combination would yield one class of 16. Last year, officials considered merging second and third grade, but faced significant pushback from parents.
This year’s merger plan would have the same pupil-to-teacher ratio as past years and would enrich student experiences with more social opportunities, said Linda Sloane, a class merger consultant.
Bridgewater First Selectman Curtis Read and Carolan Dwyer, president of the Burnham Parent Teacher Organization, backed the new measure Monday. They both said they were glad the school board researched the educational implications of grade mergers and brought in a consultant address its viability in Burnham.
Dwyer, and several Burnham parents, fought plans to merge classes last year and co-created Save Our Schools two years ago to fight to keep Burnham open when there closure discussions. This merger, she said, seemed feasible. But she asked school officials to keep an open mind if a merger doesn’t work.
“If all the gains being touted fail to materialize the onus is on the region to fix it or undo it,” she said.
There are also up to 12 children starting kindergarten in Burnham next year, she said. Current low enrollments in Burnham are more of a “blip,” than a trend, she has said, and major changes could hurt the school in the long term more than they might help it now.
School board members also discussed the possibility of merging third and fourth grade in Burnham. Officials, waiting on more feedback from educators and consultants, might discuss that merger more in the spring.
“We are cautiously optimistic that the enthusiasm and preparation we have seen by the principle, teachers, consultant and curriculum directors will enable a well planned and executed concept to roll out in the fall of 2017,” Dwyer said.
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