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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2001

Koko Head Elementary won't have combined class

By Adrienne Ancheta
Advertiser Staff Writer

Officials at Koko Head Elementary have decided to keep 34 students in one fourth-grade class rather than place some into a combined class with third-graders, a proposal that met resistance among parents.

The class instead will use a split-period system, in which some classes and activities will be taught to half the class at a time. For example, while half the class has library time, the other half will work on reading or math. Spanish and Hawaiian studies are among classes regularly being split.

Although a combined class with third-graders was considered, principal Cecilia Lum and Koko Head staff decided that teacher Mary Jane Taniguchi had the ability and resources to handle the large fourth-grade class alone, with the occasional help of an aide.

Students have worked well with Taniguchi and each other in the past weeks, Lum said, and a second classroom is available to be used occasionally for the split periods.

"We feel that we can still help the students with split periods," Lum said. "We've been doing that, and it has been working."

The fourth-grade class also is getting smaller: Two students left since school started, and two more are expected to leave later when their families move.

Another factor in keeping the class together was that most of the students knew each other in third grade and many have been together since kindergarten.

"At this age, they kind of enjoy each other," Lum said.

A letter was sent home to parents on Monday explaining Koko Head's decision. Lum said supportive responses from parents included offers to help teach physical education classes or to grade papers.

Lum stressed that students' needs will not be neglected, even though the class exceeds the Department of Education standard of 27 students to one teacher for third through sixth grades.

Taniguchi understands how each child learns best and is able to use different strategies to individualize her teaching, said Lum.

"It's only the first month of school and we keep thinking of the best ways to teach them," Lum said.

"So far, this is the best way."