Published in the April 14, 2016 edition.
WAKEFIELD — A parent of two students at the Dolbeare School told the School Committee this week that she was concerned about class size next year if there were only four first grade classes at the school.
Dawn Millward of Emerald Street said that she currently has two children at the Dolbeare, one in kindergarten and one in second grade. She said that at a Dolbeare PTO meeting this week, it was stated that next year there would only be four first grade classes at the school.
She noted that currently there are five kindergarten classes at the Dolbeare. She maintained that if there were only four first grade classes next year, it would mean that class sizes for those kids currently in kindergarten would increase by 25 percent.
But she said that after reviewing the School Department budget for next year, it appeared that the School Committee had budgeted funding for five first grade classes at the Dolbeare next year. She wondered if the Dolbeare principal had the authority to allocate that money as she saw fit despite the School Committee’s recommendation. She pointed out that if there were only four first grade classes at the school next year, it would mean that the classes would be very close to the class size policy’s limit of 25 for grades 1-4.
School Superintendent Dr. Kim Smith spoke to the issue later in the meeting while discussing projected enrollments district-wide. She said that she was keeping a close eye on enrollment numbers at the Dolbeare and other schools. Currently, she said, the five kindergarten classes at that school have a total of 98 students. That would mean that next year, with four first grade classes, their would be two classes of 25 and two of 24, still within the class size policy.
Smith noted, however, that the situation was fluid and nothing was set in stone.
School Facilities Director Maria Serrao updated the School Committee on three initiatives that she will be implementing.
The first one relates to recycling she said. While all schools have active recycling programs, she said that she would like to incorporate more district guidance and goals and bring more public attention to what the schools are doing when it comes to recycling and other “green” measures.
Another initiative relates to school building rentals. She said that the current procedures could benefit from some re-engineering, including implementing some computer software. Such improvements would facilitate better communications between building principals and custodial staffs and would make for more streamlined invoicing for facilities rentals.
She also proposed reviewing the present rental fee structure and policies to bring them into best practices. Currently, she said, the fees cover custodial costs but not lighting and heating costs. She said improving procedures would help the School Department to better care for the facilities in their charge.
School Committee member Christopher Callanan said that he was disheartened at the apparent inability to enforce the “no food” rule at the new Galvin School Auditorium.
The final initiative that Serrao discussed was a new master calendar for all school activities, including sports events and community events. She said that such a calendar would be featured on the School Department’s main web page.
Smith also updated the School Committee on regional talks around later school start times. She said that school administrators in the Middlesex League were discussing the possibility of later start times for grades 7-12. School committee members expressed support for later school start times.
In other business this week, the School Committee:
• Approved a request from Galvin Middle School Principal Adam Colantuoni for the annual sixth grade field trip to Nature’s Classroom in Freedom, N.H. from Sept. 26-30.
• Approved the 2016-2017 Wakefield Public Schools District calendar. (The only remaining question is whether or not the first day of school on Sept. 7 will be an early release day.)
• Accepted a $2,000 donation from the Wakefield High School Girls’ Ice Hockey Booster Club to fund assistant coaches for the team.
• Accepted a $1,500 gift from the Wakefield Rotary Club for the “Parent University” program.
• Accepted the following donations to be used at the discretion of the WMHS Athletic Department: a $210 donation from Jeanne’s Ice Cream Shoppe; a $100 donation from Felix Freeman, and a $535 donation from WMHS Girls’ basketball (proceeds from the concession stand at March 8 and 9 semi-final games).
• Thanked outgoing School Committee member Evan Kenney for his service. Kenney attended his final meeting this week. He is not seeking re-election in the April 26 Town Election.