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NLS approves additional help in kindergarten classrooms

NEW LONDON -- In an unusual move that was cheered by New London-Spicer's kindergarten teachers, the NLS School Board agreed Monday to provide more classroom help than what was requested.

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NEW LONDON - In an unusual move that was cheered by New London-Spicer's kindergarten teachers, the NLS School Board agreed Monday to provide more classroom help than what was requested.

The request included hiring three additional paraprofessionals, increasing the hours of one existing paraprofessional and maintaining the hours of another existing paraprofessional to provide five hours of assistance every day in each of the five kindergarten classrooms.

But after hearing about the daily routine in the classes, and that a higher-than-average number of behavior incidents with kindergarten students, the board approved increasing the assistance an additional half-hour, to 5½ hours a day for each classroom.

"Bless you," said Pam Ruter, a longtime NLS kindergarten teacher, who was at the meeting Monday along with the districts' other four kindergarten teachers.

"We're leaving with big smiles," Ruter said.

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A larger-than-expected kindergarten enrollment - including some students who have never been in a formal preschool program before - has resulted in full classrooms and busy teachers in the New London-Spicer School District, said Randy Juhl, NLS elementary principal.

The class of 118 students is split into five sections, with 22 to 24 students in each room.

The district realized in late August that the class would have 10 more students than it had budgeted for. New families moved into the district and other parents, who had initially said they would hold their child back a year, decided instead to send them to school, Juhl said.

If officials had known the enrollment numbers in early August, they would have been pushed to hire another teacher and create another classroom, Juhl said.

But because NLS began classes in late August, Juhl said the teachers agreed it would be too disruptive to split up students to create new a new classroom with a new teacher after school had already begun and students were getting into a routine.

So they instead asked the board to provide additional classroom help.

While teachers conduct small-group learning centers and one-on-one student assessments, a paraprofessional can help keep the other students on task, Juhl said.

The paraprofessionals will also help with lunch and recess supervision as well as accompany students to special classes, including music and technology.

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Juhl said there are a number of current kindergarteners who have never attended preschool before, which presents challenges for adjusting to a full-day school routine and may be why this class has more than twice the behavior and discipline reports as previous kindergarten classes.

The additional cost for the paraprofessionals is estimated at $31,000.

Board Chairman Robert Moller said the cost will have a minimal impact on the budget.

The board hopes to fill the jobs in the next couple weeks.

Contract negotiations

The board approved a two-year contract for Superintendent Paul Carlson that includes a 2 percent increase for each of the two years: $119,072 for the 2017-18 school year and $121,453 for the 2018-19 school year.

Usually a school superintendent's contract is for three years, said Moller.

Carlson has not formally indicated when he intends to retire, but said in a brief interview that approving a two-year contract provides the board and himself some "flexibility" as succession plans are made for the administrative team.

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The board also approved a two-year contract with the Educational Support Professionals, which includes secretarial, janitorial, cooks, paraprofessionals and housekeeping staff. That contract includes a 2.93 percent increase for 2016-17 and a 3.64 percent increase for the 2017-18 school years.

Teacher negotiations were not up this year.

Related Topics: SPICER
Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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