School board sizes up plan to reduce number of students per class

44

Class size is always a concern for parents and certainly for teachers. On Wednesday members of the school district’s governing board heard a plan to reduce class size.

The number of students per class will perhaps be most critical at the elementary and middle school levels. Santa Cruz Elementary Principal Lynnette Michalski reported enrolling 140 new students in the past three weeks. Maricopa Wells Middle School is now well over 1,200 students; 70 new students enrolled in the last week and a half according to Principal Stephanie Sharp.

The plan for reducing class size, which was recommended by several elementary principals, was presented by Superintendent Dr. John Flores.

In grades K-1, an additional teacher would be proposed when class size reaches 24, and a teacher is needed immediately when the class size is 27. The numbers for grades 2-3 are 26 and 29; in grades 4-5 it would be 28 and 32.

Michalski proposed that in classes having high student numbers, an aide be assigned.

“Are classrooms available for additional teachers?” asked Board Member Shannon Amos.

“When there is no classroom facility, we do the best we can,” responded Michalski.

At the middle school level, grades 6-8, a core subject class like language arts, social studies, science or math would be full at 28 students and needing an additional teacher at 30 students. “However, middle school staff wishes to retain the right to decide if class size or consistency would be the highest priority,” explained Flores. Consistency would involve the effect of moving students out of classes where they feel comfortable with the teacher and the material taught.

Remedial classes like LEAP Math would cap at 15; enrollment is currently 28, and an additional teacher is already needed. LEAP language arts would cap at 20.

Tech classes have to cap at 35 because no additional machines are available. Physical education classes could enroll up to 34 students, while Spanish, art, fine arts and dance could take 35 students.

Some classes at the high school like band, chorus, orchestra and drama would have no cap at all. “The more students enrolled, the more benefit to the program,” noted Flores.

Board member Tim White questioned why the original Maricopa Elementary site at the corner of John Wayne Parkway and Honeycutt Ave. wasn’t being retained for additional classroom space.

“The campus should be kept the way it was,” said White, adding that he knew offices were already there. “Once again the integrity there is gone. I was told it would happen, and it didn’t. Things changed, and I don’t understand why it wasn’t brought to the board.”

Michalski responded that 10 classrooms were reserved to house students at the site in question.

“We’ll have to see what attendance looks like at start up; options do exist,” said Amos.

Board Vice-President Tracy Davis reminded fellow board members that the successful override in 2005 was supposed to solve the problem of overcrowded classrooms. She added, ” Since then we’ve had three times more people.”

Growth projections will need to be applied to the plan noted Board President Jim Chaston, who expressed his concern about space and funding for additional teachers. “If it is not feasible, why adopt it?”

The report, which was not agendized as an action item for the board, will be reviewed at the next board meeting. Class size will continue to be a problem, one the governing board hopes to address.

Photo by Joyce Hollis