LUMBERTON — Parents of students at Tanglewood Elementary School say that kindergarten classes at the school are overcrowded, but according to the the system’s superintendent, steps are already being taken to fix the problem.
“For the second year in a row, we find ourselves in need of a fifth kindergarten classroom,” Angela Bono-Severy, president of Tanglewood’s PTA, told members of the Public Schools of Robeson County school board during their meeting Tuesday. “Our kindergarten classrooms were overcrowded last year, too. Last year the board was able to provide a teacher to Tanglewood, but not a place for her to teach. The school is out of space.”
Bono-Severy, who has two children at the school, a third-grader and a kindergartner, was one of four speakers to address the board concerning overcrowding at the school. All the speakers said that there needs to be a fifth kindergarten classroom established quickly.
“We, as a PTA, ask that you provide Tanglewood Elementary School with a teacher, an assistant and a new mobile unit,” Bono-Severy said. “This is the only reasonable solution.”
Johnny Hunt, the school’s superintendent, said after the meeting that he was told Monday by the school’s principal that a large conference room at the school is going to be turned into a classroom. A teacher is already available for the class, he said.
According to Bono-Severy, the student population at Tanglewood has increased from of 501 students in 2009 to its current enrollment of 574.
“In 2010, we gave up our music room to accommodate a new class. Teachers, in turn, gave up a work space to make a new music room,” she said. “The children now have music in what amounts to a large closet. Tanglewood has reconfigured and rearranged classrooms until no more options are available. We are officially out of space at Tanglewood.”
Matthew Rich, pastor of First Presbyterian Church and the father of a Tanglewood kindergarten student, told the board that the 27 students in three of Tanglewood’s kindergarten classes and 28 students in the fourth classroom exceeds the state requirement that no more than 24 students be maintained in a kindergarten classroom.
“Studies show that small class sizes, less than 20 children, in each of the first four years of school increase graduation rates for all students and nearly doubles the graduation rate of low-income children,” he said.
Rich told the board that not having the adequate space and resources for kindergarten students makes the students feel they are not wanted at the school.
“(The message is) you are not wanted here. We are not going to provide you what you need to succeed,” he said.
Josh Whitley, the father of a kindergarten student, also told the board that 27 students in a kindergarten classroom without proper resources makes it impossible for the students to receive a quality education.
“There are not enough computers available for 27 students,” he said. “All of the students cannot eat lunch together because the tables only have room for 24 students. There are less opportunities for hands-on instruction.”
Mike Smith, the school board’s chairman, said after the meeting that overcrowding at Tanglewood and other schools in the district will be addressed.
“There are other schools in similar situations,” he said. “I feel confident the administration will do its best to correct the problems.”
Board member Dwayne Smith, whose district includes Tanglewood, told The Robesonian after the meeting that the complaints raised about overcrowding and lack of resources at the school were “very legitimate.”
“I’ve seen the problems,” he said. “All they (parents) want is help.”
In other business:
— School board members were informed that the district’s Early College High School has been named as a national Blue Ribbon School for 2012. The school was one of nine in North Carolina to be receive this designation. Only 269 schools in the nation received this honor for the most recent year.
— Approved a new K-2 report card that is designed to make it easier for parents to follow their child’s academic progress.