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MUSD hiring kindergarten teachers
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Kindergarten class sizes will start shrinking in August at 30 Manteca Unified elementary schools.
The Manteca Unified board has directed that teaching aides be hired for all kindergarten classes for 90 minutes a day to help with math and language art instruction.
And — after district staff evaluates revised state funding projections made Thursday that still must be adopted  as part of the state budget and plugged into the Manteca Unified spending plan that is expected to be around $240 million — if there is adequate money additional kindergarten teachers will be hired.
That could mean as many as 20 new teachers for kindergarten classes that would effectively take the student-teacher ratio from 28-to-1 down to 24-to-1 in one fell swoop.
District Superintendent Jason Messer said the hiring process has already started for the teacher aides. The aides are required to have an associate of arts degree and pass a two-part test.
“The positions are hard to fill,” Messer said.
Messer said it is anticipated that kindergarten teachers will be a part of the process asking mothers that may meet the education qualification if they are interested in applying and taking the test.
The search for more kindergarten teachers could start after July 1 assuming the local budget has adequate funds and the school board adopts the spending plan late next month.
The board is hopeful that funding is enough that the aide positions will stay in place in subsequent budget years.
The compensation cost of 20 teachers will be in excess of $1.2 million annually.
Class sizes districtwide swelled to a ratio of 32 students to 1 teacher at the height of the budget crisis triggered by the Great Recession in 2008.  The current ratio is at 29 to 1 and was already scheduled to start dropping to 28 to 1 next school year.
The district negotiated with teachers to gradually ease back to 24 to 1. The state blessed the move allowing the district to retain class-size reduction funds for grades targeted by Sacramento without pushing up student-to-teacher ratios at grade levels not covered.
The strategy was designed to allow Manteca Unified to work toward a smooth transition back to lower class sizes at the kindergarten level without disrupting education staffing elsewhere.
Class sizes will drop by a student each year until it reaches 24 to 1.
Teachers expressed concern that extra teaching loads were making it difficult to teach kindergarteners especially when there were not aides save those for special needs of bilingual students. Manteca Unified also has incorporated kindergarten into its curriculum meaning the course work has continuity from kindergarten through 12th grade instead of first through 12th. That follows the instructional guidelines of the State of California. Kindergarteners are expected to develop basic foundational skills through the Common Core Standards that are in many cases tougher than in years past.
That added an additional challenge for kindergarten teaches who were concerned that they weren’t being given enough time to work one-on-one with students during their first critical year in school.
In addition to their own kindergarten class, teachers are assigned 100 minutes of instructional time elsewhere at their respective elementary schools. That is done virtually all of the time in another kindergarten class helping teach.
Also at the discretion of the site principal and the kindergarten teachers, kindergarten sessions have been extended by 100 minutes to further enhance education opportunities for students.