New teacher rushes into S’thorne
SILVERTHORNE – The first week of school can be a little stressful for any teacher settling back into the classroom among a sea of new faces and personalities.For first-grade teacher Jamie Layton, the task is especially challenging. Silverthorne Elementary principal Steve Riggins recruited, interviewed and hired Layton last weekend as part of a quick response to a surprising surge in enrollment among the school’s first-graders. She begins her work in the classroom with Silverthorne children today.”It’s been sort of unreal,” Layton said. “I don’t believe it’s happening. But it’s more fun than anything, and it’s all going to come together – I can feel it.”Silverthorne’s first grade had eight more students than officials anticipated last week, leaving them to worry about uncomfortably large class sizes.
“We had 52 students – two classes of 26 – and with the diverse needs we have with our non-English-speaking kids, that’s compounded,” Riggins said. “This will help us spread out the load.”The class ended last year in a tricky spot with 44 students, just shy of justifying the hiring of another teacher.”One of the hardest things to predict is how many little bodies will be coming to school,” said superintendent Millie Hamner. “If we end up hiring more teachers than our enrollment supports, we spend more (funding) than we bring in, which isn’t good.”Each school district in Colorado bases its funding on the annual Oct. 1 student count. Summit School District’s per-pupil funding is about $6,300 per student for the 2004-2005 school year. Eight extra students on Oct. 1 would add about $50,000 to the district’s $27 million preliminary budget.That per-pupil count regulates the level of local property taxes and state funding that is available for the rest of the school year.Overestimating enrollment and hiring accordingly can lead to financial complications down the road.
Districtwide, the administration’s prediction for 2004-2005 enrollment was only off by eight students. But every new student the district added this year was a first-grader.Summit School District’s six small, neighborhood elementary schools add to the complications of teacher allocations, especially in Silverthorne, which has the most transient student population in the district.”When you’re dealing with small schools, students don’t always fit neatly into groups divisible by 20,” Riggins said. “Some years you’re going to have the small bubble – other years the big bubble. We do have a lot of kids that move in and out in all ethnic groups, and that doesn’t make it any easier.”Our student population is kind of like the weather in Summit County: Wait a little and it will change,” Riggins added.Hamner’s commitment to small class sizes prompted the game-time decision to add a teacher to Riggins’ staff. The school district’s average elementary class has 17 students.”I don’t want anyone to think that we don’t realize Silverthorne has special needs,” Hamner said.
And Riggins is confident Layton is just the person to meet those needs.She has degrees in English and elementary education from Regis University, where she graduated magna cum laude. Layton worked with the English as a Second Language (ESL) populations in Basalt and Greeley elementary schools before coming to Summit County last year. She is fluent in Spanish, which will enable her to communicate more easily with many Silverthorne parents.”I think my love for literacy is a great attribute. My love for kids this age is my biggest strength. There’s something new and exciting every day,” Layton said.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at email@example.com.
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