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SIMI VALLEY | East Ventura County Focus

Kindergarten to See Class-Size Reduction

September 18, 1997|LISA FERNANDEZ

Five-year-olds will no longer have to be cramped in classrooms, as the Simi Valley Unified School District's Board of Education unanimously voted to add kindergarten to its class-size reduction program.

"It's kind of a no-brainer," said board President Norm Walker, after listening to several kindergarten teachers describe the benefits of teaching 20 children, instead of a larger class.

"I support it," said board member Diane Collins. "How could you not?"

At least two of the schools in the 19,400-student district, Vista and Park View elementary schools, however, have said they do not have sufficient space for the smaller classes.

In August, the state Legislature increased funding from $650 to $800 per student for all classrooms that have 20 or fewer children. First- through third-graders in Simi Valley began the class-size reduction program last year.

To meet state deadlines for the funding, the extra Simi Valley kindergarten teachers must be on the payroll by Nov. 1 and begin teaching classes by Feb. 16.

The board seemed especially compelled by kindergarten teacher Neelu Stafford, who said she has taught up to 34 children at a time.

She told of one mother who had erroneously thought that Simi Valley kindergartens were classes of 20 students or less. The woman brought what she believed was a generous amount of cupcakes--24--to a party at school.

Stafford said she had to tell the mother that kindergarten wasn't part of the smaller class-size program, and so she began cutting the cupcakes in half to make sure there was enough to accommodate the overcrowded classroom.

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