Concerns surrounding increased class sizes for sixth graders were voiced during the Braham Area School Board meeting March 15.
Amie Shockman, a special education teacher at Braham Area Schools, voiced concerns about larger sixth-grade class sizes that could be in effect during the next school year.
“As a staff member, we pride ourselves on small class numbers,” Shockman said. “So 30-plus kids in a classroom is a lot, and as a parent that’s a big concern for kids.”
John Carter also expressed similar concerns about class sizes for his children. Carter said he has a son who is in fifth grade who was placed in distance learning.
“But we moved him to Rush City (Schools), because he had mentioned the program is not set up for kids who need additional help or who aren’t, I think, more intelligent,” Carter said.
Carter is now debating whether to enroll his son back to Braham Area Schools, he said.
“Knowing the large class sizes, given he needs extra help, especially in math, we’re concerned that’s just not going to happen,” Carter said adding that as a result cliques are formed. “We also know with our oldest son, he had large class sizes, and about the same (grade). And he ran into bullying.”
Carter is worried, given his son’s educational needs, he might be targeted if he is outside of the cliques that may be formed, he explained.
Tracy Fix, a sixth grade teacher at Braham Area Schools, said that with larger class sizes a certain kind of behavioral dynamics occurs in sixth grade.
“We’re looking at middle school type behaviors, things like that, you see more behaviors, and the more students you have in the classroom, the more things you end up seeing,” Fix explained. “So I just wanted to make you aware of those numbers coming into this.”
Fix also explained that before the COVID-19 pandemic, she was teaching 25 students in her classroom. During the COVID-19 pandemic, that number dropped to 13 students who were being taught “out of the room,” she said.
“So I’m left with 13 students, you can get a whole lot of things accomplished when you have 13-on-1 rather than 25-on-1,” Fix said, adding that with the higher number, the more difficult it will be teaching students.
“And that age level already is, you know, a fun age because students are, their brains are developing and they’re maturing in lots of different ways,” she continued. “And there are a lot of emotions that happen and emotions are huge in that age. And those come out in the classroom and in everything that they do. And I think it’s important that we keep that in mind.”
Board Chair Steven Eklund responded that he didn’t disagree with the concerns raised by Shockman, Carter and Fix.
“We appreciate you coming,” Eklund said. “The budget committee has already met and that’s one of the things we talked about. The board in our working meeting tonight we also talked about it. There’s no question that 30-plus kids in a classroom is not ideal. We’re looking at the budget and trying to figure out a way to deal with it. And at this point, that’s all I can tell you.”