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Former teachers ask district to nix multiage classrooms

Grangeville’s Nancy Moser addresses the Mountain View School District 244 board of trustees at the Dec. 18 meeting.

Photo by Lorie Palmer
Grangeville’s Nancy Moser addresses the Mountain View School District 244 board of trustees at the Dec. 18 meeting.

— Several locals attended the Dec. 18 meeting of the Mountain View School District 244 school board to voice their opinions and concerns on multiage classrooms.

Although the topic was not an agenda item, those attending were allowed to sign in and had the opportunity to speak for three minutes apiece.

“I helped start kindergarten here in the 1970s,” said retired Grangeville Elementary Middle School (GEMS) teacher Sally Nolan, formerly of Mount Idaho. “I am dead set against kindergarteners and first graders being together.”

Nolan said the most important thing in kindergarten is bonding, and the process should be “pure joy.”

“We should not be ramming reading down the throat of a 5 year old,” she added.

Just more than five years ago, under then-superintendent Greg Bailey, MVSD went to multiage (or combined) classrooms, in part to help with spreading out of teachers where needed and to offer balance rather than have one grade of 60 students and one of 40, for example. Multiage classrooms are K-1, 2-3 and 4-5. Last year, under superintendent Kent Stokes, GEMS parents had the option of having their child in a combined K-1 or a separate kindergarten-only classroom.

“I agree,” added retired GEMS teacher Lynnell Wassmuth of Grangeville, “In kindergarten, we’re building on one-step directions. It is not efficient to do this alongside first graders. I would be happy to visit with any of you about this,” she told the board members.

Retired GEMS teacher Shirley Lane of Grangeville added there is “no research to support mixed grades” doing well together.

Former preschool teacher Nancy Moser of Grangeville, who also worked for a decade in the schools with the Second Step program, said kindergartners need to be allowed to learn experientially.

“They need to build on experiences – that’s how they learn. They need water, sand tables, an open classroom, lots of activities and have the ability to make a lot of decisions.”

Moser said kindergarteners learn from repetitive processes and from building connections that require open-ended play.

One audience member suggested looking at test scores for the past five years which, she said, “do not show improvement,” under multiage classrooms.

Superintendent Marcus Scheibe said he takes the subject “very seriously.”

“I appreciate these ladies and others who have talked to me,” he said.

Scheibe said he has been listening to teachers and MVSD needs to “figure out if this is working.”

“Let’s make sure we’re doing what’s best for kids in this district,” he said.

The issue will be discussed in the future, the board said. In the meantime, anyone with comments or concerns can send them to The next meeting is set for Jan. 16, 5:30 p.m., district office, Grangeville.


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