Barrington parents speak out about class sizes

Superintendent pledges support to teachers who request it ·

Barrington school officials are promising support for students and teachers at Primrose Hill School following outcry about large class sizes at the local elementary school. 

At its meeting on Thursday night, Barrington School Committee members asked Superintendent Michael Messore about the third grade classes at Primrose Hill School. 

There are three third grade classes — one with 26 students, and two with 25 students each. That enrollment exceeds the third grade classes as Nayatt and Sowams elementary schools, where classes have, on average, 23 students. 

A group of parents of Primrose Hill School students have been discussing the issue with school officials, and they attended Thursday night's meeting looking for answers.

Amanda Brougham spoke to school officials during the meeting. She said school administrators needed to be more proactive with the classroom size issue. Ms. Brougham also told officials that while they promised support to teachers who needed it, she questioned whether any of the educators would be willing to admit they needed help.

Kristen Pearse also spoke at the meeting, and asked officials what specific actions they would take to remedy the large class sizes at Primrose Hill School. Ms. Pearse also said that adding an additional fourth grade teacher at Primrose Hill School — the move would reduce class sizes to 18 students per teacher — would be giving necessary resources "to the kids who need it most."

In addition to having the largest third grade class sizes across the district, Primrose Hill School's recent third grade assessments were significantly below the scores for other third-graders at Nayatt and Sowams.

Ms. Brougham and Ms. Pearse spoke during the public comment period, but could only listen when Mr. Messore and school committee members shared their comments a few minutes later. (The committee's meeting structure only allows for the public to speak during public comment periods and not during the actual agenda items designated for the topics.)

Mr. Messore provided a slide of the classroom sizes in the local elementary schools over the last 10 years. He said he works closely with building administrators to ensure that teachers have the needed supports to help students succeed. 

The superintendent said Primrose Hill School Principal Pat Tolento is working with her teachers to determine what supports — if any — are needed in the classes. Mr. Messore said supports are determined by more than just class sizes.

"It can be social and emotional needs," he said.

Mr. Messore said each K-3 school in Barrington has one building intern that can be used to help with larger classes; there are also two interns dedicated to the kindergarten classes as Primrose and Nayatt and one at Sowams. 

School committee member Anna Clancy asked Mr. Messore if he believed teachers who needed help would come forward and ask for it. Mr. Messore said he could not speak for each teacher, but he believed that those who did require additional support would make it known. 

"I have great respect for our teachers," he said.

Dr. Megan Douglas reiterated that point. She said that in her experiences as a mom of Nayatt students, the teachers she knew would always ask for help if they needed it.

Mr. Messore said he was expecting to know soon whether staff at Primrose Hill School would be requesting support. 

"They're formulating their plan," he said. "It's not my plan… they will come to me."

Dr. Douglas later asked the superintendent to make sure that parents were made aware of the situation at Primrose Hill School as soon as possible. 

After school officials moved onto the next meeting agenda item, parents left the school administration building and gathered outside. They made clear their request for the Primrose Hill School third grade classes: Either add a building intern to each third grade class or add an additional third grade teacher.

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