Parents question class sizes at West Bristol



Several parents expressed their concern last week over the class sizes at West Bristol School.

During a Board of Education meeting held last Wednesday, Kristen Giantonio, the mother of a fourth grader at West Bristol, spoke on behalf of other concerned parents. She said student enrollment in grades three through five at West Bristol are “disproportionately larger” than the district average.

In her address to the school board, Giantonio said enrollment data shows that six out of eight Bristol elementary schools show an average fourth grade class size of less than 21.5 students. During the Feb. 3 Board of Education meeting, Director of Human Resources Sam Galloway reported increasing class sizes in grades three through five.

“Unfortunately, West Bristol, as of today, has three sections of 27 students, and one section of 26 students in their fourth grade,” said Giantonio. “That is an increase of 30 percent higher than the number of students at six out of the seven others.”

Giantonio added that demographically, West Bristol School contains some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

“I’m very proud of the teaching and administration staff at West Bristol School. They had to do more with less ever since the school opened,” Giantonio told the board. “Our teachers and our children need your help with addressing the disproportionately high classroom sizes in fourth grade as well as looking and third and fifth so that our students are not locked into classes that are capped at the maximum for the foreseeable future. All students need the attention of our teachers.”

Board of Education Chairman Chris Wilson, who currently has four grandchildren attending West Bristol School, said the board will try its best to solve the enrollment problem.

“This is an extremely difficult situation,” said Wilson. “Every year, our HR Department takes a look at all of our class sizes and tries to balance them out the best they can.”

Wilson said the current budget situation also plays a role in higher class sizes, noting that Bristol has fewer resources than other school districts that are similar in both size and taxes.

“Bristol has been an under-resourced district ever since I’ve been on the Board of Education,” said Wilson.  “If the budget situation works the way it looks like it’s going to work now, I suspect we’re going to have more class sizes higher rather than lower.”Bristol All Heart