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Ripon Unified cuts overflow K-3 classes
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RIPON — The elimination of two overflow K-3 classrooms at Ripon’s Parkview and Colony Oak Elementary schools was approved by Ripon Unified trustees Tuesday night bringing a net savings of some $42,000.

The move gives the district the flexibility to maximize class size up to 32 students in other primary classrooms from the overflow classes – the maximum allowed by the California Education Code.

Parents showed their cost savings preference in keeping their children in larger classes rather than transferring them into K-3 classrooms where there are currently only 23 students.  Ripon High School senior and student school board member Michelle Ambrose had told trustees at a recent session that she felt it would be much better for the children to be in closer contact with teachers with fewer in a class.

School district Superintendent Louise Nan said that she needed the overflow classes eliminated – one way or the other – to allow her to begin planning for the next fiscal year.  It is unclear the coming dictates of the coming budget revision in May will mean class size reduction must be totally eliminated.  

Nan noted that any students in the more congested classes in the K-3 classes may opt to transfer out to other elementary schools where they would be with fewer students in their classroom.

The state levies penalties for stepping out of the class size reduction (CSR) program up to 25 students from the 20 designated in the classroom setting.  There is no penalty in increasing the number of students to the 32 maximum, Nan said.

Trustees also approved the closure of two fourth grade classrooms for the 2010-2011 school year.  Currently there are 10 third grade classrooms district- wide and only eight fourth grade classrooms.  The third grade classes moving up at the end of the year are reportedly small with only 223 students at Ripona and Colony Oak schools, allowing the closure of the two separate classes.

Superintendent Nan said that the district will entertain voluntary transfers before mandating where students are placed in another classroom setting.

Trustees approved the calendar for the next school year following negotiations with the Ripon Unified School District Association.  The budget savings through the teachers’ agreeing to cuts in their salaries has resulted in $422,952 in savings toward the upcoming budget.

The new calendar reflects the agreement with teachers that eliminates five instructional days and two staff development days.  The Christmas break is being extended from two weeks to three that is scheduled to reach into January of 2011.

“We would like to thank and commend our teachers for working with us to take on the budget reductions imposed on us by the State of California in a cooperative and collaborative manner,” Nan said.

School trustees also approved expanding an upgrade to their computer network within the district to a greater bandwidth that increases operations 10 fold at a cost of $1,000 per month through Charter Business.

Board members Mike Fisher and Ernie Tyhurst voiced objections in spending money on the new network when there are so many cuts on the horizon they will soon face including sports programs.

Two school principals addressed the board pointing out that the present network that links schools to the district office and to the county schools office is so antiquated they often have to wait 15 to 20 minutes for their computers to function.

Weston Elementary Principal Lisa Ferrara said because of the cuts she was left without a secretary on Monday who was out sick and at the same time was unable to get her computer to work.  She added that she had some help from the school librarian, noting that librarians are expected to possibly be cut from the school staffs in the future.

Warren Council, principal of Ripona School, said he too has experienced challenges in getting work done because of the limited network that is now installed.  In addition to the offices being inhibited by the current network, students often are unable to get their projects done in the school computer labs, he said.