In this week's Board of Education meeting, the board approved hiring part-time aides as a result of the student enrollment preliminary figures. Those numbers showed an unexpected rise in Deerfield Elementary's kindergarten and Hartshorn Elementary's third grade class size.
"This has caused, shall we say, challenges for us," Superintendent Dr. James Crisfield said. "I've spoken with the principals at both school and we've identified some people that are going to be very helpful."
The Deerfield kindergarten district guideline for class size is 20 but four classrooms average 21 students. Hartshorn's third grade class size should be 23, yet five classrooms average 25 students per class, the board said.
In the last few years the state's efficiency guidelines have been interpreted by the county office so that only special aides can assist in classroom, Crisfield explained.
This year though, the interpretation has changed allowing aides in regular classrooms again. The aides will help in nine classrooms, three hours a day, which will keep the unexpected cost low without sacrificing the quality of education, the board said.
A Short Hills resident, Maha Karnoub, who has two children in kindgarden, asked the board, "How flexible is our budget so we can hire whoever we need so the teachers can teacher properly and the academic levels can stay where they are?"
"We do a lot of budget transfers because the budget is a little bit of a moving budget, to some extent, when were looking to hire someone," board president, Michael Birnberg said. "We just might have to tighten our bootstraps somewhere else."
Karnoub also voiced concerns about the time period of hiring these aides.
Crisfield said there are already four candidates who will start as soon as the paperwork can be filled out.
In the kindergarten classes the aides will assist the teachers with putting on kids' backpacks, getting the students' coats off and organizing them. In third grade the aides the aides will be involved with small group exercises or computer work.
"This is one perfect example of where we just don't always know," Birnberg said about unexpected budget issues. "We do our best guess [in January] with regard to class sizes, population and personelle."
Although the abnormal rise in these few classrooms, the district overall increase was 40 students, three less than the 43 predicted in the budget.