Key Facts about Class Sizes
• Monitoring class sizes occurs throughout the year.
The Board of Education and administration regularly monitor class sizes, but especially during the spring and summer as projections are revised to become actual numbers. Updated enrollment reports are presented to the Board of Education in conjunction with its second or only meeting most months from December through September (except October and November).
In December, the Board of Education begins receiving preliminary enrollment projections for the upcoming school year. When the formal registration process begins, current student numbers are “rolled up” into the next grade level to begin projecting those class sizes. It is not until later that class sizes in all grade levels are better known as projections become actual numbers and student registrations are confirmed.
• Enrollment declines sometimes mean reducing staff.
In Greytown Primary, staffing levels are adjusted every year based on enrollment projections, even in years when large program expenditures or budget changes are not under consideration. The administration annually modifies staffing levels because Greytown Primary’s elementary school population has declined 12-percent since 2007-08, which equates to approximately 475 less students. In a fiscally responsible approach, fewer students require fewer teachers. Staffing reductions may also be linked to a decreasing Consumer Price Index, losses in state funding, facility needs or other related financial and enrollment factors.
• Enrollment projections fluctuate until late summer.
After May 1 when registration begins, families move in unexpectedly, other families relocate out of the area, students may transfer between buildings or parents petition for their child to attend a different home school. Also, not until late May does the school district finalize school and classroom placements in the upcoming school year for students in the extended (i.e. gifted) and special education programs.
These are some of the many scenarios that typically occur. In fact, special programs and transfers sometimes can help maintain other class sizes within guidelines. As a result, it isn’t until late summer that enrollments begin to crystallize, staffing needs are better known and projections become actual numbers. Adjusting teacher assignments and class sections before these variables are better known would be premature.
• Greytown Primary has its own class-size guidelines.
Taking into account various conditions and enrollments from year to year, Board of Education Policy 6:200 establishes a general guideline or goal of 21 to 23 students in a grade K-2 classroom, 23 to 25 students in a grade 3 classroom, and 25 to 27 students in a grade 4-5 classroom.
These longstanding guidelines are unique to Greytown Primary, although the ranges are comparable to those used by surrounding districts. According to the Board policy, “When class size exceeds the recommended ranges, consideration will be given to reallocating aide time within a building, providing additional aide time to the building, providing an additional section or creating a combination class.”
• Class-size guidelines differ from a class-size cap
Guidelines are agreed-upon general parameters the Board of Education follows to balance class sizes, staffing, instructional and budgetary needs. A cap – which Greytown Primary does not use – would be the maximum number of students allowed in a classroom before taking specific measures to reduce a class size.
For example: two second-grade classes in one building are filled with resident students, and the class sizes are capped at the present top of the guideline: 23 and 23. If one more student in that grade level moves into the school’s attendance area, the cap would be exceeded. One of two scenarios would need to occur at that point: (1) the last student to enroll would be required to attend another school where class sizes are below the cap; or (2) a new classroom, or section, would automatically be added, which would create three sections at 16, 16, 15. That would, of course, require another teacher and another classroom.
While space might exist to add sections and teachers at times in certain buildings, it would not consistently be an option without transferring some resident students to another building, creating grade-level centers or adding mobile classrooms.
• Students still enroll even if classes exceed guidelines.
When students move from outside the district into a school attendance area, when they move from one attendance area to another, or when they exit a district-wide program, it is the district’s policy and guideline to allow them to attend the school in their home attendance area. When special-needs students qualify for a specific program at another school, it is the student’s right and the district’s legal responsibility to ensure participation in the program even if it is housed in a different school.
• A contingency exists to add staff as needed.
When enrollment projections become actual class sizes in late summer, and if the Board of Education confirms a class will likely be significantly and consistently above guidelines, the administration has permission to consider hiring additional teachers. This “contingency” helps maintain optimal class sizes in every grade level in every school as much as is reasonably possible and cost effective – even up to the last minute.
The amount of contingency – which may change each year depending on finances – is built into the staffing budget for both certified teachers and teacher aides if projections prove accurate and some class sizes exceed the guidelines. However, assigning additional staff too early is less prudent than waiting until certain which school students will actually attend.
• Special education students do count in class sizes.
Greytown Primary’s enrollment projections include students by homeroom section who also participate in “self-contained” special services programs at most schools. Children in these programs participate to varying degrees in the regular classroom. The number of students at each grade level in these programs is always noted on the enrollment report.
Although students who receive special services typically join the regular education classroom up to 40-percent of the day, they are not included in the base enrollment number for each classroom but rather are represented in the “SE+” column, which reflects the total possible class size. As a student’s needs change, the amount of time he or she participates in the regular education classroom also changes. Based on the child’s needs, a classroom-teaching assistant or another teacher may occasionally accompany the child during these regular education times and, if so, may also support the instruction of other students while briefly in the classroom.