Bexley school administrators keeping an eye on larger class size

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Bexley school administrators will be keeping an eye on some of the district’s larger class enrollments to determine if additional staff or sections will be needed, Superintendent Michael Johnson told the school board Aug. 20.

Johnson informed the board that the projected enrollments show Maryland Elementary with two third-grade classes of 24 students each; Cassingham Elementary’s first-grade with two classes of 22 and one of 23; and Cassingham’s third-grade with classes of 25 and 24 students.

 

Montrose’s sixth-grade classes have 25 and 26 students, he added.

The rest of the district’s classes are within the guidelines for class size, he said. The guidelines recommend classes of between 20 to 22 students up to third-grade, and between 22 and 25 for fourth to sixth-grade.

Johnson said he had heard a rumor that one family with triplets in third-grade had moved into the district, and another family has twins. But he was waiting to see the actual class sizes when school begins Aug. 22 before considering whether additional staff or sections are warranted.

There will be aides assigned to the Cassingham first and third-grade classes, the superintendent said, as recommended by policy when enrollment edges toward 25 students.

A classroom can be added when enrollment approaches 30 students, Johnson said.

Several Cassingham parents attended the meeting with questions about how administrators determine when extra staff should be hired.

Parent Harlan Meyer pointed out that his son’s class includes special education students who can require added attention.

Johnson explained that all special education students have Individual Education Plans and receive academic support from staff members.

Board member Joan Fishel wanted to know if the physical size of the classroom is also part of the equation.

Johnson said that the Cassingham classrooms are built to accommodate up to 30 students.

Meyer also wanted to know what the district is doing to weed out students whose families do not actually live in Bexley or pay taxes to the district.

The superintendent said that investigations are conducted when there is a suspicion that non-residents have enrolled children, with 33 letters going to parents last year.

The cost of those investigations runs to six figures, board Vice President Andy Sutter added.

"Enrollment is not an easy thing to police," Sutter said.

Johnson explained to the parents that he tries to balance the need for small class sizes with his fiscal responsibilities to the district’s taxpayers, 70 percent of whom do not have children in the schools.

Sutter reminded them that, as parents, board members have also had to cope with large class sizes for their children, and that when his son was in third grade his class had 28 kids and some instruction took place in the hallway.

"I hope that never happens again," Sutter said.

He assured the parents that the board is not "turning a deaf ear" to their concerns, but looks at the issue from a different perspective.

While administrators keep an eye on class sizes, middle school and high school parents can monitor their children’s progress with an updated computer program.

The Power School system replaces the Centerpoint program in use since 2005, and should be simpler to navigate, Director of Curriculum Anne Hyland said.

Bexley parents will be able to check grades, assignments, and student progress.  Parents can also choose to receive email notifications about students’ grades or attendance.  The school district is sending login information, a user name and a password to each student’s household in the early weeks of the school year.

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