Sequim schools seeing growth at fourth-, fifth-grade levels

By Michael Dashiell

Olympic Peninsula News Group

SEQUIM — An unexpected surge in student enrollment at Greywolf Elementary School has pushed classroom sizes to their maximum and led to at least two specialists at the school using their planning periods to compensate for the growth.

The Sequim School Board on Monday night agreed to compensate Greywolf science teacher Carla Morton and physical education teacher Doug Hastings an extra 0.2 percent of their salary compensation for the large class sizes.

“We’re essentially buying out their planning time,” Superintendent Gary Neal said.

Teachers normally have five teaching periods and a planning period. With the larger class sizes, the specialists will work through those planning periods.

“This is nearly a last choice,” Neal said. “It’s certainly a short-term solution.”

The proposal has verbal approval from the Sequim Educators Association, the local bargaining group for Sequim teachers, representative Jon Eekhoff said.

Part of the problem, he said, is simply a classroom space issue.

“Since the school year started, we’ve had large classes [in those grades], but we don’t really have a place to put them,” he said. “This [move] is the best for the students.”

The district budgeted for the equivalent of 182 students in fourth through fifth grades (94 students in fourth, 88 students in fifth) at Greywolf to begin the school year.

On the first day, Greywolf had a combined 195 students in those grades, and as of December has 197 fourth- and fifth-graders.

Numbers are similar at Helen Haller, Sequim’s other elementary school, with 202 students expected in fourth and fifth grades and about 207 showing on the first day.

The situation was not predictable, Neal said, looking back at third- and fourth-grade numbers from the 2015-16 school year.

“That says something of a transient school population,” Neal said. “Kids are moving around and they are staying here. It’s a good scenario; we’re adding kids.”

Neal said families at Greywolf were offered a chance to shift to Helen Haller. The district has capped class sizes in those grades at 28 students, Neal said.

Overall, the district has the equivalent of about 2,815 full-time students (not including Running Start students); it had budgeted for about 2,770.

In other action, Robin Henrikson, who was not present at Monday’s meeting, was re-elected to the position of board president, with remaining board members unanimously approving the move.

The same held true for Bev Horan’s vice president position.

Jim Stoffer remains the legislative representative for the school board, a two-year position.

Board members also unanimously agreed to shift the board meeting time to 6 p.m., bumping the start time back a half-hour in 2017.

The board is having fewer workshops than they did at the beginning of the school year, they said, and the earlier time fits with members’ work schedules.

The next school board meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3.

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at editor@sequimgazette.com.

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