Debate over the Steamboat Springs School District's class-size policies likely will continue Feb. 16, when the School Board is scheduled to vote on whether to accept Superintendent Donna Howell's suggested policy revisions.
School Board members discussed the existing district class-size policy, a separate administrative policy used to determine staffing levels at district schools and Howell's suggested revisions at Monday night's board study session. The discussion took place about one month after School Board member Pat Gleason requested the board look at the policies to determine if they are in conflict with one another.
Gleason said Monday that he believes the board's class-size policy, which mandates that class sizes be no greater than an average of 20 students per teacher, was wrongly interpreted by district administrators when, to determine total district staffing levels, they created an administrative class-size policy that sets a formula of 19 students per teacher at the elementary level and 18 students per teacher at the secondary level.
"I really believe (administrative policy) I-14 is in direct conflict with district policy," Gleason said Monday.
That conflict, Gleason said, has resulted in continued lowering of class sizes in the district over the past several years, during times of dwindling resources and while the school system wasn't exceeding districtwide class-size ratios of 20-to-1.
The district's class-size policy was intended to set a minimum average class size of 20 students per teacher, but interpretation of the phrase "no greater than an average of 20 to 1" has resulted in a push by parents and others for even smaller class-size levels, Gleason said. That push was largely a result of the administrative policy that uses 19-to-1 and 18-to-1 averages.
"I would recommend those numbers be dropped from I-14," Gleason said. "District policy supercedes administrative policy."
School Board member Michael Loomis said he thinks the administrative policy used to determine staffing levels is a good planning tool for the district.
Howell's suggested changes to the district policy were intended to put in language the reality of current class sizes across the district, she said. Maintaining a ratio of no greater than 20 students per teacher is contingent upon the district receiving at least $350,000 a year for small-class-size funding from the Education Fund Board, according to the policy.
Class sizes in the district next year will reflect a 19-to-1 ratio at the elementary schools even without the retention of two elementary teachers hired for this school year with Fund Board dollars, Howell said. The district administrative team is not recommending that the Fund Board provide money to continue to fund those two teachers for the 2004-05 school year. Howell also recommended reducing the middle school staff by one-and-a-half certified teachers to reflect a projected enrollment drop at the school.
The certified staff-to-student ratio is 17.7-to-1 at Strawberry Park Elementary School; 18-to-1 at Soda Creek Elementary School; 18-to-1 at Steamboat Springs Middle School and 17.4-to-1 at Steamboat Springs High School.
The School Board will vote on changes to the district class size policy at its Feb. 16 meeting.
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