By Kay Braddock
Next year’s sixth graders will follow a middle school schedule.
That unanimous decision made by Terry Public School trustees during Monday night’s regular board meeting came after an earlier meeting held with parents of elementary students that outlined the school district’s options.
Currently the combined fifth and sixth grade class, which began the school year with 19 students, is being taught by Tammi Prete.
Next year’s sixth grade class is expected to have about 13 students.
In previous years, sixth graders have been housed in one classroom with one homeroom teacher, teaching subjects in a typical elementary classroom setting.
But due to a steady declining number of students in the last decade and state budget funding concerns directly affected by enrollment numbers, Superintendent Casey Klasna said the option of hiring another elementary teacher wasn’t fiscally feasible for the school district.
“I think it’s the most responsible decision right now,” Klasna said. He estimated hiring another elementary teacher would likely cost the district about $40,000.
Parents met with Klasna during a March 17 meeting, where he ran through the school district’s two options – hire another elementary teacher or bump sixth graders into a middle school setting, meaning subjects would be taught by various teachers already instructing junior high students. It also means that rather than staying in one classroom throughout the day, students will move from one classroom to another.
“Everybody wanted option number one,” Klasna said, but added that most understood the budgetary constraints the school district faces.
Graphs depicting the school district’s declining student numbers were also presented during the meeting.
“They don’t look horrible,” Klasna said. “But they’re not great either.”
In kindergarten through sixth grade 80 students enrolled at Terry Public Schools at the start of the 2010-11 school year. Both seventh and eighth grades included 25 students, while Terry High School grades included 52 students.
With only about five students expected to enroll in next year’s kindergarten class and a departure of 15 seniors, Klasna pointed out enrollment numbers for the school may likely decrease. Next year’s enrollment numbers for the school could total to about 147 students.
The number of students enrolled is used to determine state funding for schools.
Concerns expressed by parents about changing the sixth grade class from a one teacher setting to a multiple teacher setting included a lack of communication occurring between teachers regarding student performances with students falling behind in classes.
Unlike seventh and eighth grade students, who attend classes in both the high school and Grandey buildings, Klasna said the majority of the classes for sixth graders will remain in the Grandey building.
“(Parents) felt more at ease that their child wouldn’t be among the older kids,” Klasna said.
In other school news, three community members have filled the recent vacancy of the shop teacher position. During a March 15 special meeting, school trustees approved the temporary hiring of Marvin Varner, Jackson Dion and Dan Lassle to teach shop classes for the remainder of the school year.
Varner is teaching an automotive class to seniors, Dion is teaching woodworking to seventh and eighth grade students, while Lassle is instructing a high school welding class. Klasna is also filling in for an hour of carpentry class.
“It’s working well,” Klasna said. “The kids are busy.”
Klasna approached the three men about the teaching possibility and noted that all federal guidelines were followed in the hiring process.
The school district hopes to have a shop teacher in place by the end of June for the upcoming school year.
The drivers education course will start in July for Terry High School students. Junior high and high school math teacher Mike Ehinger has signed on to attend a month-long drivers education teaching course held in Havre in June.
About 15 students are expected to take the course, which will last through August.
A tentative schedule will be sent out to parents sometime in April.
The school district will be on the lookout for high school volleyball coaches for the 2011-12 school year, as both head coach Jasmine Freiboth and assistant coach Jody Haidle have announced their resignations.
The pair end their volleyball coaching career at Terry on a high note, after leading the 2010 girls volleyball team to a state championship.
Title I teacher Jeanette Anderson has also resigned from her position. Announcing her retirement earlier this month, Klasna said Anderson is no longer at the school. No specific reason was given for her decision to retire early, Klasna said.
Anderson helped K-12 students with reading and math.
The position is expected to be filled for next year. Unlike elementary teaching positions, which are directly paid from the school’s general fund, title positions are federally funded and do not affect the school’s general fund budget.
Title one teachers instructing at Terry Public Schools can expect between a $26-29,000 yearly salary, depending on experience.
There is an opening for the school’s athletic director position as well.
High school science teacher Greg Mendenhall announced earlier this year that he will not be serving as the school’s a.d. for another year.
The athletic director position pays $2,625 for a school year.
Published March 30, 2011