Bexley News

Board considers cap on class sizes

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Class sizes in Bexley elementary schools could soon be capped if board members amend a long-debated policy.

At the April 9 meeting, board members again heard concerns from parents about class sizes and discussed amending the policy — which dates to 2003 — to include a limit on the number of students in a single class.

Bexley’s class-size policy is meant to provide guidance when building principals make decisions about adding instructional aides or additional class sections where there is high grade-level enrollment.

The issue of class size has traditionally come up in the spring and summer, as administrators begin to project enrollment and plan classes for the next school year.

But some parents have complained that the policy language is vague and have asked for a firm limit on the number of students in a single class.

Kevin Brashear, a parent of two Montrose Elementary students, said he researched 22 years worth of yearbooks at the school and, according to him, the largest class was during the 2007-08 school year, when there were 28 students in a sixth-grade class.

The average over the last 20 years was 20.4 students per class in the fourth grade and 23.5 per class in the sixth grade, Brashear said.

“The school district is what makes the property values here,” Brashear said. “People move here for the schools.”

Grades 4 and 6 are important because the policy makes distinctions between grade levels at elementary schools. Last month administrators said they plan to better communicate the policy to parents — including sending letters to those with children entering the fourth grade, where the policy changes

The current policy states for kindergarten through grade 3, administrators should:

ã Strive to maintain an average of 20 to 22 students per classroom.

ã Consider employing the equivalent of a part-time or full-time aide for a classroom with a range of 23 to 25 students.

ã Consider adding a section when enrollment per classroom ranges from 25 to 29 students.

• Avoid class sizes of 30 or more students.

For grades 4-6, the policy says administrators should:

• Strive to maintain a range of 22 to 25 students per classroom.

• Consider employing the equivalent of a part-time or full-time aide for a classroom with a range of 26 to 29 students.

• Avoid class sizes of 30 or more students.

Board members Marlee Snowden and Mike Denison each proposed amending the policy to include firm limits on classroom enrollments.

Snowden suggested capping classes in grades K-3 at a maximum of 27 students. Denison took it a step further, proposing that all grades at the elementary level should have a maximum of 25 students in each room.

“Capping it at 28 (students) seems like it’s not enough,” Denison said.

Board president Carol Fey stressed that the district needs to take other factors into account, other than just enrollment, including the class makeup and challenges faced by individual students and the size of physical classroom space.

“I’m not sure there is a cookie-cutter solution,” Fey said.

Board members did not discuss changes to the policy affecting middle and high school classes. At the middle school and senior high school levels, the district strives to maintain a range of 22 to 25 students per classroom and to avoid scheduling that results in a significant number of classes with fewer than 15 students or more than 30 students per classroom.

Fey asked district administrators to get feedback from elementary staff and provide members with other data that they could review prior to the next meeting. The board is expected to further discuss changes to the policy at the next meeting, scheduled for May 14.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 14 at the Cassingham complex, 326 S. Cassingham Road.

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