Class sizes revisited
School Board to take another look at policy, student-to-teacher ratios
November 17, 2008
The ideal class size for Steamboat Springs students is again up for discussion when the Steamboat Springs School Board meets tonight.
Two weeks after voters overwhelmingly approved the renewal of the half-cent sales tax – which has been used throughout the years to hire teachers to reduce class sizes – Superintendent Shalee Cunningham will provide a report detailing current class sizes in each district school. The report will be a jumping-off point for a discussion about whether the district’s current class-size policy is sufficient.
The district’s policy stipulates student-to-teacher ratios of 19:1 at the elementary schools and 18:1 at the secondary schools. It last was revised in 2001, but increasing enrollment has led to classes with as many as 25 students at the elementary schools. At Steamboat Springs Middle School, classes are doubled up as part of a block schedule, resulting in classes with 54 students and two teachers.
Nevertheless, the elementary schools still average class sizes of 19 students, but the ratios at the middle school and high school are harder to calculate because of several factors, including how special education students and the aides who assist them are counted into the total.
Attempts have been made to mitigate class sizes at the middle school in the past year, including “flex teachers” who split their time between the largest classes.
Class size must remain a district priority and should receive renewed attention this year, School Board Vice President Denise Connelly said.
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“I think part of the issue is the half-cent sales tax that the community has voted for consistently. One of the main goals of that is to keep class size low,” she said. “I have been hearing from parents and teachers that there are certain areas of concern in the district.”
The half-cent sales tax, passed by 76 percent of voters in the Nov. 4 election, was promoted in part on the basis that it helps keep class sizes low. To that end, 16 teachers have been hired across the district since 1993 through the use of half-cent sales tax revenues.
The board requested tonight’s report from Cunningham as a way to keep tabs on how the district is progressing, School Board President Robin Crossan said.
“We’re glad that we’re doing it in the public’s eye because we want everybody to understand it,” she said.
Class sizes at Steamboat Springs High School range from 10 in some art classes to 28 in certain Spanish classes, according to Cunningham’s report.
The other question facing board members is what ideal class sizes would be.
“I know on the Front Range there are some schools with class sizes that are much larger than ours,” Connelly said. “Is that all right or not?”
Along with the quality of education provided by extra teachers, the board also must listen to the community and parents who voted for the half-cent tax, Connelly said.
“Even if we are meeting the ratio that we have set forth, and even if it is the norm in some areas to have class sizes around 30, is that what we should be doing here, especially with the commitment from the community for the half-cent sales tax?” she said.
– To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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