The average class size in grades 1-4 at the Wellington Elementary School has reached 25. Three classrooms have 26 students. As I’ve said before, redistricting might be one means of leveling elementary class sizes among the four schools; but throughout the district class sizes are approaching that 25 student average. For right now, we have frozen enrollments at the Wellington so that any new elementary students will be redirected to one of the other three elementary schools with smaller grade-level classes.
At the Chenery Middle School and Belmont High School we have done our best to level class sizes. The long-range solution is to determine what options for reducing class sizes are possible within the limits of resources. However, no option is likely to prove revenue-neutral. Each additional teacher and classroom averages an increase to the budget of $100,000 to $120,000 (salaries, benefits, supplies, and equipment). Additionally, any expansion of classroom space requires the space to expand as well.
As we approach planning for the FY 2014 budget, we will necessarily be cognizant of the need to maintain reasonable class sizes. To do so rationally will also require a serious projection of demographic trends and reliable predictions about student population growth.
September 17: Now that the school year has begun and new students have been registered, we have a surer sense of the numbers of students in the Belmont system. Class sizes at the Wellington Elementary School have definitely risen, as have some honors classes at Belmont High School. There are as well some sections at the Chenery that are larger than we like. To reduce class sizes after school begins and after a budget is in place is always a challenge because until school begins there is no sure way to know what the real numbers will be. Especially for elementary students, disrupting an emerging relationship to rearrange classes is hardly ideal. Nonetheless, we are looking at some ways of improving the ratio of adults-to-students for the short term. In my judgment, the long-term resolution lies in a thoughtful discussion and implementation of a redistricting plan that evens class sizes throughout the district. We welcome comments, concerns, and ideas.
Sep 10: With the start of a new school year, teachers and administrators are gearing up for the full implementation of a new performance appraisal system, designed by a broad group of individuals from all regions of Massachusetts. The group included teachers, parents, union representatives, school committee members, business people, and citizens. What the Massachusetts Educator Evaluation System promises is a collegial and continuous means of reflecting upon and improving the practice of all educators. The Belmont Publlic Schools in agreement with the Belmont Education Association adopted the new system with but a few tweaks for the first year. This month educators are writing goals and plans for the year. The Superintendent will be undergoing a public review of his performance during the September and October school committee meetings, a review in accord with the new system.