Updated Board policy provides for growing class sizes

Hannah Fagen, Editor-in-Chief

Each year for the past several years, while the school budget has grown by small amounts, there has never seemed to be enough funds to go around to maintain all programs and faculty positions.  One of the most notable annual events has been attrition, when retiring teachers and staff members are not replaced.  The most direct impact of attrition for students is the increased class sizes that come with having fewer teachers to teach the same amount of classes.

At the Feb. 26 Board of Education meeting, the Board approved a revision to policy 4420-R, which dictates optimal and maximum class sizes for all school levels.  The board changed the policy to include higher optimum class sizes, optimum ranges, and maximum class sizes for most levels of district education, including high school.  The new maximum class size is 30, with an optimum class size of 22.

“As with any decision, there are pluses and minuses,” said Director of Guidance Mr. Hank Hardy.  “The plus is that the Board has created a more distinct policy with clearer guidelines for us to work in.  Unfortunately, it is necessary for us to have this in place to address budgetary issues.   We are not seeing a decrease in our enrollment, and we couldn’t continue functioning [the way class sizes were previously structured].”

Although the change in policy itself will not increase class sizes, it potentially creates more leeway for classes to be larger.

“In science, it is really detrimental, because larger class sizes make it more dangerous to do some labs, especially in chemistry,” said science teacher Ms. Marla Ezratty.  “In Biology, it impacts the size of the lab groups, and everybody doesn’t get an equal chance to do the lab because there isn’t enough equipment and supplies.”

Although the maximum class size is clearly identified at 30 students, the guidance department will continue to make exceptions to the rules, especially when scheduling classes with historically high drop rates and physical education classes.

At this point, there is no end in sight to the trend of eliminating teacher positions in order to adhere to necessary budget cuts.

“With the current tax cap law in place it’s hard to predict when we will be in a position to add rather than subtract,” said Principal Mr. Ira Pernick.  “Like the rest of the school community, I remain concerned about this trend.”

Mr. Hardy believes that a solution to this problem will not be reached until many teachers retire, and can be replaced with newer teachers, who are paid less.

“Each year is different,” said Mr. Hardy.  “At some point, there will be an end. At some point, you’re going to have a significant number of veteran teachers who will retire and leave the district. With the way things are happening, something is going to have to change.”