Class Size

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. 

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Class Size

  1. MFP

    I believe this has to be a priority for the school district. As the lower grades continue to grow, it will impact the system as they move along their educational careers. Belmont does a wonderful job hiring great teachers and it would be a shame if our classrooms were so large that they could not have a meaningful impact on their students. I am not in a position to comment about redistricting but that solution becomes moot at the middle school and high school levels. At that point, really, the only solution is too add more teachers to those grades with larger enrollments. I know this is not easy as the population ebbs and flows but it needs to be addressed.

    • Thank you for commenting. The school committee and school department will be tackling this issue as part of our budget preparation for fiscal year 2014. In the meantime, we are exploring what kind of short-term adjustments can ease the problems. –Tom Kingston

  2. Tom – I don’t really see where you’re going with this. Please explain to me how redistricting will solve our class size problem when Belmont’s elementary, middle and HS class sizes are already hovering at the top of what this district defines as the acceptable range – and even cross over that range in some cases?
    Redistricting supposes that there are schools in town that have under utilized classes, and others that are over crowded, but that’s not the case at all, from what I understand.I don’t see how you manage class size without staff increases.
    Also, have we really looked at the total costs of this to the town and to families? For example, wouldn’t redistricting necessitate increased busing across town – with parents/families picking up the hefty, per student cost of that?
    Frankly, this really doesn’t sound like a plan – or even the beginnings of one – so much as number fudging and belt tightening to mask the effects of our structural budget deficit and year on year cuts to staffing and programs. At this point, we’ve all got Ph.d’s in that here in Belmont.
    Rather than tweaks, I’d appreciate a long term plan from you and the administration that shows parents and town leaders the way to get average class sizes back from 20-25 to a consistent 16-20 district wide, end the crisis of max-ed out AP courses (by expand programming offerings to meet demand, of course) and make sure that our graduates in 10 years can hold a candle to our graduates from last year.
    My 2c.
    Paul

    • Anonymous

      I agree that a long-term plan is necessary. That requires research, thought, and vetting. Redistricting is something to consider for the elementary schools, however. Obviously it does not resolve anything at the middle grades or high school. “Tweaks” need to be part of the short-term plan because like any organization, the School Department has to operate within its annual budget.
      Thanks for comment.

      –Tom Kingston

  3. And the prior response is not “anonymous”! I’m still learning the system. 🙂

  4. Thanks for your response, Tom.

    Again – I think before we pursue this you really need to present numbers that address the total cost of this to families (i.e. will there be additional busing required?) and also show how redistricting will have a meaningful effect in reducing class size and not simply “rearrange the furniture” so to speak.