West Prairie Elementary School taking 'leap of faith' to address - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

West Prairie Elementary School taking 'leap of faith' to address overcrowding

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West Prairie South Elementary School has 29 students in the first grade. West Prairie South Elementary School has 29 students in the first grade.
Phelps said only one teacher for 29 students wasn't enough. Phelps said only one teacher for 29 students wasn't enough.
Phelps and other first grade parents were concerned. Phelps and other first grade parents were concerned.
The district is planning to hire another teacher. The district is planning to hire another teacher.
The district continues to wait for federal and state funding. The district continues to wait for federal and state funding.
COLCHESTER, Ill. (WGEM) -

Some McDonough County parents have been concerned about the student-to-teacher ratio for the first grade class at West Prairie South Elementary School.

Greg Phelps was excited for the first day of school l, until he saw that his child's new teacher would have 28 other students to look after.

"Keeping it small is the way to go because you don't want to have too many kids." Phelps said.

Phelps was worried his first grader would get lost in the shuffle at a crucial time for education.

"You lose a lot of kids, and once you lose them in the lower grades you're not going to get that back, and that's we're a little worried about." Phelps said.

However, with state and federal dollars up in the air, West Prairie Superintendent Carol Kilver said hiring additional teachers is a big financial risk.

"Basically the general theme is, we're in uncharted waters." Kilver said. "As public school officials, this is something that most of us have never seen in our career nor will we probably ever see again."

As an employee for Western Illinois University, Phelps said while he's sympathetic to the school board's dilemma, he still wants what's best for his child, and other students.

"I work for Western." Phelps said. "I understand fiscal difficulty. If you're in the state of Illinois you understand fiscal difficulty. This is something that is the future of our children, and we need to think about their future."

Both parents and educators agree that these are uncertain times for education funding, and while the board is hiring another teacher for the class, Kilver said it's not a long term solution if they can't get the necessary funding.

"The board has taken that leap of faith." Kilver said. "We have hired that second teacher, but we don't have full confidence that the money is coming."

Kilver added that while the district would typically receive federal title II grants to hire an additional teacher in this situation, the district doesn't currently have a timetable on when that money would arrive, and its unclear if the Trump administration will continue it.

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