Since the 2013-14 school year started, Idyllwild School has lost a permanent teacher, which has resulted in the combination of two fourth-grade classes into one class.

Hemet Unified School District’s enrollment is about 400 to 500 students below expectations. Consequently, the district has had to eliminate seven teacher positions since the beginning of the school year.

One of these was the transfer of Michelle Adler from Idyllwild to Whittier elementary. This loss has resulted in combining the two fourth-grade classes.

Adler was the kindergarten teacher. Lisa Draper, one of the fourth-grade teachers, replaces her. Draper’s fourth-grade class is combined with Tom Dillion’s class, which now has 35 students. And three other students were transferred to Brennen Priefer’s combined fourth and fifth grade class, but they go to Dillion for math and English, according to Idyllwild Principal Matt Kraemer.

“I shifted staff to the best possible situation,” he said. “It wasn’t my choice.”

This action provoked a reaction at the HUSD Sept. 3 board meeting, which was coincidentally held at Idyllwild School. Several parents shared both their opposition and dismay with the board.

Questions, which parent Verna McQueeney asked, were why the adjustment was made after the school year began and its effect on special-needs students in such a large classroom.

“Combining these classrooms is a rash decision and detrimental to the children,” said her husband Michael McQueeney.

Parent Dawn Sonnier told the board that despite the district’s declining enrollment, Idyllwild School’s enrollment is increasing, and therefore could not
understand the justification for its loss of a teaching position.

Idyllwild’s current enrollment is 293 students, 11 more than the June enrollment of 282

Later in the meeting, the board did reject the transfer of a teacher from Helen Hunt Jackson School to Whittier, but approved the other involuntary transfers, including Adler’s transfer to Whittier.

Idyllwild board trustee Vic Scavarda voted against the package, which included the action affecting Idyllwild.

“If I were a fourth-grade parent, I’d be extremely upset. And I heard from many upset parents,” Scavarda said. “I wish it were in my power to fix the numbers we’re dealing with. With the isolation [of Idyllwild from the rest of district] up here, historically our class sizes have been lower than the rest of the district.”

In other business, Pam Buckhout, director of financial services, told the board that the final results for fiscal year 2012-13 improved from the initial estimates. The year-end balance was $1.5 million more than originally estimated and $500,000 more than the previous year-end balance.

The board also approved a package of contract changes to complete the ramp to Idyllwild School’s athletic fields. In June, the trustees approved a notice of default for the original contractors, Falcon Builders. HUSD had numerous problems with the quality and completion of the work.

New contracts for railings and to remove and replace concrete and asphalt have been issued. The estimated completion date is the middle of October.