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BOARD VOTES AGAINST CUTS IN CLASS SIZE; CASTAIC KEEPS KINDERGARTEN AT 30.

Byline: Mary Schubert Daily News Staff Writer

Due to budgetary restraints and the uncertainty of state funding, kindergarten class sizes will remain about 30 rather than the 20 students-per-teacher level of the primary grades, the school board voted.

School board member Greg Ferrier, a real estate agent, joined in unanimously voting down the proposal for three reasons that sounded a bit like his profession's mantra of location, location, location.

``Money, money and money,'' he said. ``I think we all felt that we'd better watch our purse strings a little bit.''

Enrollment in the Castaic Union School District stands at 2,295, of which about 250 pupils are in kindergarten. The number of students in the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade district has doubled since the 1988-89 school year, when Live Oak Elementary opened as its third school, said Beverly Knutson, director of personnel and business.

Because that growth trend is expected to continue at a rate of 10 percent each year, Knutson recommended to the board at its Thursday night meeting that class-size reduction not be implemented for kindergarten. The board had been considering the switch, starting with the 1999-2000 school year.

The district - consisting of Castaic Elementary, Live Oak Elementary and Castaic Middle School - plans to add a third and fourth elementary school to its roster within the next six years. In California, public school systems must come up with at least half the funding for construction, and apply to the state government for the balance.

Knutson told the school board that kindergarten class-size reduction would cost $180,908 for the 1999-2000 school year alone. The district would need an estimated $234,900 from the state to pay for the program. District officials aren't certain that government funding will be forthcoming.

``It's not a mandated program, which means it might not be funded at all,'' Knutson explained.

Ferrier said he didn't want to risk spending that much money because he felt the district would be wise to save it - to put toward the costs of those future schools or the enrollment boom that's expected to bring 900 new students to Castaic schools by 2003.

``Personally, I felt that putting more bungalows on the blacktop was just a temporary fix,'' Ferrier said. ``We need to save the money and spend it on a permanent solution.''

The district owns land in the NorthLake residential development under construction in Castaic, and that's where they expect to build the next elementary school.

The Castaic district reduced class sizes to 20 students per teacher in its first-grade classes during the 1996-97 school year, in second grade during the 1997-98 school year, and in third grade classes beginning last September, Knutson said.

Although class-size reduction is a popular movement statewide, Knutson said that Castaic isn't alone in leaving out kindergarten pupils. Across California, 69 percent of public school kindergartners are in smaller classes, compared to 99 percent of the state's public school first-graders, she said.

``We have an outstanding kindergarten program, and we don't think our kids are shortchanged,'' Knutson added.

Her proposal suggested that the school district may be able to afford 20-student kindergarten classes by 2001.

Ferrier agreed.

``If we were a wealthy district and were rolling in dough, we would do it for kindergarten (now),'' he said. But board members ``felt it was fiscally irresponsible to do so because of the astronomic growth we have.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 20, 1999
Words:559
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