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Superintendent: Lower class sizes not a freebie

The school board has signaled its interest in cutting class sizes with a change to its “district priorities” document that, in part, guides the upcoming budget process.

“Why is the only mention to adhere to class size?” asked Board of Education member Karen Sulzinsky at a school board meeting this month.

She suggested smaller classes ought to be in the educators’ sights as enrollment declines.

There was some question about whether lowering class size could be done now without increasing the budget, since enrollment is expected to continue declining.

Superintendent Deborah Low said that was wishful thinking.

“I’m not objecting to smaller class size, don’t get me wrong, but if you put it on a different level, it may well affect” staffing, Ms. Low said.

Most classes tend to be well below the allowable maximum already, but not all of them are.

This year, six out 111 classes are at the maximum, according to the annual enrollment report prepared by Director of Personnel Karen Dewing.

The board also has a lower “desired maximum” for each elementary grade. Four out the 111 classes are at that level.

Most, 91%, are below the “desired maximum.”

In third grade, class size average was 21.33 students, below the 25-student desired maximum and 26 firm maximum. And third grade classes range in size from 17 to 24 students. Theoretically lowering the firm maximum class size to 25 wouldn’t have meant any additional teachers this year, but that might not be the case in future years.

Adding, in tentative language, that educators would like to lower desired class size for third grade does not guarantee that the initiative will materialize in the superintendent’s proposed budget, let alone make it through the entire process of finance board and voter approval.

Item 1e of the document was changed to read: Continued planning for best class size practices K-5 by examination of research on class sizes.  If budget parameters allow, reduce Grade 3 “Desired maximum class size” from 25 to 24 students and “Maximum class size”  from 26 to 25 students.

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