Groton parents upset with fifth-grade move to have meeting with superintendent, principals

Groton — A group of parents who were turned away from Monday's school board meeting without being heard will have the ear of the superintendent, his assistant and two principals this morning.

The parents went to the school board meeting to express their displeasure with the way they learned that their children, who were fourth-graders at Catherine Kolnaski Magnet Elementary School, would spend fifth grade at Claude Chester School.

Kolnaski's fifth grade has been eliminated for one school year to help solve overcrowding issues.

The parents were invited instead to a meeting at 10 a.m. today at Claude Chester School, with Christine Dauphinais and Jamie Giordano, principals of Kolnaski Magnet School and Claude Chester school respectively. Interim Superintendant Randall Collins and Interim Assistant Superintendent Sean McKenna will also take part.

Collins said staff meetings on how to address overcrowding yielded three ideas, including moving the fifth-graders, moving the kindergarten, or taking no action.

"Whatever we decided had to be done right away," Collins said. "That was June 11. We decided moving the fifth grade was the best decision."

The school had approximately 50 fifth-graders leaving for middle school, about 50 fourth-graders heading to fifth grade, and nearly 100 new kindergartners coming in. Dauphinais said class sizes reached as high as 28 students in some classrooms last year.

"I think this will help provide the proper learning environment we need to address all of our students' needs," Dauphinais said. "The space issue has had a big impact over the years."

Collins said the decision was approved in a special school board meeting the next day, June 12.

School closed on June 14. The school's principal, Dauphinais, was absent due to illness on June 13. She delivered the news at the close of the last day of school.

"Parents and teachers were officially informed Thursday," she said. "Letters to the parents went home with the students' report cards."

She said there was no easy way of handling the news.

"It happened quickly," Dauphinais said. "In doing anything that rapidly, I think things can be improved. If we had more time we could have done it smoother."

To help make the change smoother for parents and students, Collins said students who take part in before- and after-school programs at Kolnaski will still be able to continue to do so, with bus transportation to and from Claude Chester from Kolnaski. Also, the sibling of any fifth-grader would be allowed to transfer to Claude Chester.

Although the fifth-grade change was decided last week, parents who went to Monday's school board meeting believed the item was going to be on the agenda, Collins said.

Even if it had been, the meeting was a Committee of the Whole meeting, the board's working meeting, when it does not provide time for public comment as it does in regular meetings, generally held in the Town Hall annex.


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