In May, our community decisively and generously approved a local option levy that enabled us to hire 150 teachers, reducing class sizes throughout the system and addressing the most extreme cases. While it does not restore the last five years loss of 600 positions, it puts us on the right trajectory. Without these funds, class sizes would exceed 2012-13 levels. While we are not yet satisfied with all of our class sizes, we will experience a big improvement from last year.
Local option funds were allocated to schools for hiring during the summer. Given current summer enrollment figures, most 1st through 5th grade class sizes do not exceed the mid-thirties, and most kindergartens are below 30 students. Middle school core classes are averaging in the mid-30s. High schools and options will show some large class sizes during the first few weeks of school until counselors make scheduling adjustments. This occurs every year and is due to the complexity of the high school and options’ schedules and normal enrollment fluctuations.
At our school, first grade classes have 27 students and second through fifth grade classes about 31 students. Our fourth grade group is the biggest with 32 in two of the classrooms. Kindergarten is our smallest group with about 22 in each class. We are adding and dropping students daily so things are always changing but this is where we stand now.
District enrollment can change dramatically between summer figures and the actual arrival of students. Staff monitor enrollment daily throughout September, making adjustments as quickly as possible. This may involve transferring staff from under-enrolled schools to over-enrolled schools or hiring additional staff to address unexpected class size issues. We recognize this is a disruption, but the sacrifice to reduce class size is worthwhile, and in some instances waiting until school starts can’t be avoided.
More good news: The District is receiving $2.3 million from Washington County Gain Share funds. The School Board has authorized the District to use $1.1 million for hiring additional staff, which will be included in our process to reduce class sizes as best we can afford. The remaining $1.2 million will be used to restore one student instructional day. The District will work with employee associations over the next several weeks to identify and communicate which day will be restored.