The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 30, 2001


'Crunch' committee addresses space needs at school

As the Carlisle School grapples with an increasing number of students, a new space utilization committee was formed last month to come up with ways to deal with the impact of the growth on facilities, students, staff and the quality of life at the school.

At the first meeting of the group (also known as the "crunch" committee) on November 14, chair David Dockterman said, "Even if we started today, a new school could take three years to complete." Of the present campus, "The school is already jammed. We may have to come to the point of exceeding the class sizes we like," he said.

Small class size endangered

Third-grade teacher Gene Stamell said with class sizes increasing from 19 to 23 students, any qualitative changes in the classroom are debatable. However, a more crowded classroom creates "climate" changes at the school, making it harder to teach civility, for example. Relationships between adults and students are also sacrificed with larger classes, he said, because teachers don't get to know their students as well as in a smaller class.

Class size is now in the low-20s for grades kindergarten to three, with most classes having between 20 and 23 students. For grades four to eight, class size is in the mid-20s, with most classes between 23 and 26 students. The school attempts to keep class size smallest in the earliest grades based on educational research that shows the advantages of small classes for the youngest students.

Core facilities taxed

While the school can add classrooms, Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson said the school also needs to expand core facilities such as the cafeteria, gym and library on a campus that is already physically crowded. The committee plans to do an inventory of the square footage of classroom space and common areas in the Carlisle School to compare with other towns, and will also compare information such as class size and the number of lunch shifts needed to accommodate students in the cafeteria.

Superintendent of buildings and grounds David Flannery expressed his concern about safety with the large number of vehicles and students, particularly at dismissal time in the afternoon. With more than 100 adults and 850 students, the septic and water systems are also taxed, he said. Though most people are aware that the septic system is in technical failure and is pumped monthly, many are not aware that water at the school is also an issue. "There's a limit to the well. One day recently the school ran out of water by the end of the day," he said. "It's not just a school problem, it's a community problem," he said noting that the school buildings are used from early in the morning until late at night and also in summer, when the recreation program uses the facilities for camp.

Parent Dale Ryder, who volunteers weekly to supervise students during recess, recommended the group make a videotape of the play plaza to show residents how crowded the area is at recess. Some pointed out the irony that Carlisle, which has so much conservation land and open space, has so little available space at the school campus. The committee of ten members including parents, teachers, administrators, and school support personnel, will meet again on December 6.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito