2018-09-13 / News

Parents turn to school board after the closing of two classes

By Gary Gould
810-452-2650 • ggould@mihomepaper.com

DAVISON — An unexpected drop in enrollment, of approximately 80 students, forced district officials to close two classes – a second grade class at Gates and a first grade class at Central  – three weeks into the school year.

The students were reshuffled to other classrooms, but parents are now upset because their children had already begun to form friendships and a bond with the teachers, who were also reassigned.

Several parents addressed the Davison Board of Education, Sept. 10, to express their concerns and seek answers.

“We get it, it was financial, it had to be done,” said Gates parent Jamie Gildner, whose son was one of the students reassigned. “But it happened way too late. Lot of numbers were there. You now have 31 second graders in one classroom…that’s too many. Studies show smaller classes are more successful.”

Gates parent Jennifer Craven said her child was also affected by the closing of one of the classrooms and it has been devastating to the students.

“They were three weeks in. The kids had a bond with classmates and teacher,” she said. “So much so all 24 kids were crying when the teacher talked to them. Children collapsed and they sobbed.”

Craven said what’s done is done and she knows the district can’t go back. But she worries about these same kids next year if the numbers are not up to where they are expected.

“I feel right now we are broken, our kids are broken,” said Craven. “They shouldn’t have to go through this.”

Superintendent Eric Lieske said he had spoken with many of the parents earlier that day and he expressed sympathy with the students. He said the drop in districtwide enrollment by 74 children was unexpected, considering where numbers were at the end of the 2017- 2018 school year. Numbers won't be final until after the Oct. 3 headcount.

“I apologize,” he said. “Twelve days into the school year is tough, but I’d be irresponsible as superintendent not to make a decision like that. I’ve always made decisions based on what’s best for the kids.”

He said while some classes are now as high as 31 students, it stays within the Davison schools collective bargaining agreement.

“I don’t want to minimize anything,” said Lieske. “I’d love to see our class sizes at 25, but right now none have exceeded collective bargaining agreements.”

He said the district will look at changes and suggestions made by parent going forward to hopefully avoid a repeat of the late notice class closings that happened this year. He added nobody was laid off, no jobs were lost, no programming was lost – though he understands some students were hurt by the decision.

The district stands to lose about $600,000 in state revenue due to the reduced enrollment.

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