BARSTOW • Students in the Barstow Unified School District will head back to school in a little over one week, and many students — particularly those in elementary school — will be facing changes upon returning to the classroom.

While the district has been tightening its belt overall, elementary schools will be feeling several of the budget's impact this coming fall.

Teacher layoffs for kindergarten through third grade will mean bigger class sizes.

The shutting down of Barstow Intermediate School means that fifth- and sixth-graders will be back at elementary school, meaning more bodies on campus.

Second grade teacher Cindy Martin said she's been thinking about how to set up her students' desks and arrange her room as she shelved stacks of textbooks  at her new room at Cameron Elementary School on Friday. With kindergarten through third grade adding 10 students to each class — growing from 20 to 30 students per class this year — having more desks means less space for tables where students can work on other activities.

"It will be more crowded," Martin said. "If it doesn't work, I'll change it."

Nicole Rajacich, a substitute in BUSD since January, who was also setting up a classroom at Thomson Elementary School on Friday, said the extra students can make discipline more difficult to handle.

"Classroom management is going to be a much bigger issue this year," she said.

According to Assistant Superintendent Teresa Healy, some fifth and sixth grade classrooms may start off larger than usual — getting up to 35 students.

Some elementary schools are taking different approaches to adding older students to its schools, which were previously K-4.

Rajacich said that most teachers at Thomson had to relocate classrooms as the campus got rearranged so grade levels would occupy their own rows of rooms.

"They've kind of separated the older kids from the younger ones," said Rajacich.

However, at Crestline Elementary School, first graders and fourth graders will be sharing the same lunch period — in fact they'll be sitting across from each other, said Principal Dave Finch.

Instead of separating ages as a way of dealing with potential behavior problems, Finch said he wants to bring the grade levels together.

"Kids take responsibility for each other and I think that helps with discipline," he said.

Crestline stands to grow significantly with the two new grade levels and its new expanded school boundary, jumping from 330 to a projected 520 students this fall. But since his school had the extra classroom space to grow, Finch said he looks at the growth as a challenge, but a positive change.

"As a school gets bigger, it provides more resources — more people have more ideas — so I think it adds another dimension," he said.

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