Gordonville classes are being juggled

Monday, May 5, 2003

It came as a shock to many parents with children in the Gordonville Attendance Center:

The school's three classrooms will be reduced to two next year as a result of declining enrollment.

As it stands, Gordonville children only attend grades 1 through 3 there. They go elsewhere in the district for the higher grades. In an effort to preserve at least those three grades at the attendance center, Jackson School District administrators have decided to send the second-grade teacher elsewhere in the district and split the second-grade students between the first-grade and third-grade classrooms.

Students would retain their own age-appropriate curriculum, but they would be receiving it in a classroom where other students are being taught something different.

The decision is understandable from one aspect. The enrollment has dwindled from 80 students 20 years ago to 54 students this year to an expected 37 students next year. As Dr. Ron Anderson, superintendent, observed, it's hardly fair to have teachers in other schools struggling with 25 students and have those in Gordonville handle only 12 or 13 each.

At the same time, the district stands to lose as much as $2 million in state funding in the next budget year, and it could save up to $40,000 by moving a teacher out of Gordonville.

How administrators are addressing the Gordonville decline seems like a stop-gap measure.

Keeping the Gordonville center open means sending traveling teachers there for art and music classes. It means heating, cooling and maintaining a building.

Then there's the issue of combined classes. Certainly, it's not unusual in Missouri. Jim Morris, director of public information with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said Missouri's 524 districts are required to report such combinations each year. The number of districts with combinations has risen from 16 in 1995 to 33 in 2003. The trend is affecting both large and small districts. Anyone old enough to remember one-room schools will recall similar combinations when eight elementary grades had the same teacher.

In Gordonville's case, though, it's hard to imagine the parents of second-graders who get lumped in with their underclassmen will be satisfied with that decision. Meanwhile, the parents whose children are in the third-grade classroom can expect outstanding results -- a Gordonville teacher said she uncovered research that shows students exposed to older classmates excel.

Anderson said the grade combination should not be taken as an indication district leaders are considering consolidating Gordonville Attendance Center with other schools.

But the idea certainly is worth at least consideration.

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