Keep calm and school on with smaller class sizes in Marysville (slide show)

MARYSVILLE – Smaller class sizes and improving behavior are two key goals of the Marysville School District this year.

Both were evident on the first day of school Wednesday at Kellogg-Marsh Elementary.

To keep class size down, that school has added a new kindergarten, first- and second-grade class, along with adding two third-grade classes.

The teachers, and even some students, noticed.

“I could not imagine this becoming a reality,” longtime K-M third-grade teacher Alisha Bierer said Wednesday. “I can really get to know my kids.”

Bierer said just a few years ago she had 30 students; this year it’s about 18.

Even on the first day, Bierer said she was able to “connect with a few of them. They’ll be able to get so much more attention from me.”

Kindergarten teacher Kathy Ruiz said she’s been able to learn students’ names better, which is so important to them.

And, she also has learned a bit about the students, such as one who likes to dance.

“I’m a rock star dancer,” Ruiz joked.

She was also impressed with kids who weren’t in her class. “That’s the quietest first grade ever,” she said.

Principal Eneille Nelson, who wore a “Kindness is contagious at K-M” shirt, said with the smaller classes there is room to move around, there are enough supplies, and it’s overall just more relaxed.

Longtime special education teacher Debbie Whitfield said another big thing is a “calm down area” in every class. It’s part of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports the district has been using for a while. “But now it’s consistent in every class,” Nelson said.

The calm down areas are different in each class, but they usually are private, quiet and encourage the student to reflect. Inspirational sayings have been placed around almost every classroom. Low lights help set a quiet mood in many rooms.

Second-grade teacher Randi Dunn wants all of her students to be comfortable so she uses “flexible seating.” Student can sit wherever they want, including on pillows strewn throughout the room.

Whitfield said she and Angela Markam share 40 kids. But almost all of them are in general education classes much of the day. If there is a problem in another class, they go to help. She said quite a few of her students used her calm down area on Day 1. But others are doing very well.

“Some students who used to be self-contained have improved so much socially and academically” under this method, Whitfield said.

She said everyone seems so excited for school.

“I’ve never seen class sizes this small,” she said. “Teachers and students are really going to be able to build relationships.”

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