By Sue Kiesewetter
FAIRFIELD - Many children in the northern section of the Central Elementary School attendance area will attend afternoon kindergarten next fall.
The switch from morning to afternoon kindergarten affects families who live on about 68 streets, mostly in the Gilmore Trace, Starlight Estates, Woodsfield, Camelot, Pepper Ridge, Fairfield Ridge and Parkland Hills subdivisions, apartment or condominium complexes.
The switch is being made, officials say, to reduce the class size at the kindergarten center and more equally divide students between morning and afternoon sessions.
"We have every little square inch used in the morning, yet we have classrooms empty in the afternoon,'' said Susan Lindberg, principal at the kindergarten center.
That, says Superintendent Robert Farrell, is causing class size to increase for children attending morning kindergarten. Lindberg said average class size in the morning is 23-24 pupils but 21 in the afternoon.
"We're trying to keep good class size - it's (kindergarten) such a critical time for a child,'' Farrell said.
Growing enrollments in Fairfield Township's East and North elementary schools and Central's attendance area - all assigned to morning kindergarten - have caused the disparity to grow over the past three years, Lindberg said.
Children who live in the South and West elementary schools' attendance areas go to afternoon kindergarten. Attendance is stable or dropping slightly in those schools' attendance areas.
There are 402 children in 19 morning classes but only 290 children in 14 afternoon classes, Lindberg said.
With the switch, Lindberg expects enrollment to be about 355 in both the morning and afternoon sessions with an average class size of about 20.
The move will affect about 80 children in the Central area who would normally have attended morning kindergarten, Lindberg said.
"We are trying to keep neighborhoods together,'' said Bill Westerbeck, Fairfield's transportation director.
Lindberg said the change could be made without hiring additional teachers. However, some part-time teachers might have to switch from teaching mornings to afternoons.
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