School district may add staff for remote learners

St. Lawrence Central School Superintendent Christopher Rose says he may be approaching his board of education to discuss adding positions in the district. Bob Beckstead/Watertown Daily Times

BRASHER FALLS — St. Lawrence Central School Superintendent Christopher Rose says he may be seeking to add positions who could work with students who are learning remotely.

“We’re looking at the possibility of coming to you at our next May meeting. We’re looking at adding some possible positions,” he said during his budget hearing, which was attended by some board of education members.

Among the considerations using available federal funds are teacher assistants to help students who may be 100% remote learners next year if their families choose. That would allow the regular staff to remain on task with students in their classrooms.

“We have to look ahead and figure out how are we going to relieve a little bit of stress and anxiety from staff covering all of that this year. One way to do it is to look at some teacher assistants, even possibly in each building, to be in charge of 100% remote students and make sure they’re on task with what they need to do every day, and make sure they’re getting done what they need to do so the teachers can get back to focusing on those sitting in front of them that choose to be here,” Mr. Rose said.

He said they’re currently unsure about the requirements and mandates for the students and families that choose to remain 100% remote.

“Basically, we’re told we’re still going to have that option, probably with smaller parameters. It just won’t be, ‘Well, I’m afraid of COVID. I don’t want to send my child,’” he said.

Class sizes are also a concern. Mr. Rose said that before COVID-19 hit last year, the district was going to add a .5 physical education shared position because class sizes were maxed out. But with COVID, the decision was made to take it out of the budget.

“Federal dollars can be used to add teachers to reduce class sizes. National data says learning decreases at 20 (students) or more. Your learning expectation is going to go the other direction,” he said.

But the question is, how will they maintain elementary class sizes under 20 students after federal funding is gone.

They currently have five third-grade sections instead of four, and he said there’s always the possibility of more students coming into the district. He said that number rarely goes down. And, Mr. Rose added, they never know true kindergarten class sizes until school starts in September because not every parent registers their child ahead of time, or a family may have just moved into the district.

Federal money can also be used for academic intervention services for students who need extra assistant. But, again, he said they need to prepare to maintain those positions once federal money is gone.

“The learning loss is going to be there. We need to get them back,” he said.

Mr. Rose said administrators are already discussing their options, and he plans on sitting down with the board of education to review those options — what can they do now with their current budget and what can they do in the future.

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