School Board opens discussion of class size

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— Sometimes an hour of discussion just isn't enough for a complex and emotional issue like class size.

A month might be more appropriate, Steamboat Springs School Board President Paula Stephenson said after Monday night's study session was used, in part, to look at the district's current class-size policy and how it can be revised.

School Board policy says that the ratio of all district certified staff to the kindergarten through 12th grade student population must be no greater than an average of 1:20 provided that the Education Fund Board give $350,000 annually to maintain those class size levels. Some board members feel district administrators wrongly interpreted the board's goal behind the policy.

"The board has one perspective of its policy and the administrative team has developed its own interpretation of the intent of that policy," Superintendent Donna Howell said.

In the midst of declining student enrollment and dwindling revenue, the School Board says it can't afford to continue to fund smaller class sizes, or even the district's current class sizes. Finance Director Dale Mellor is predicting the district will face a $220,000 deficit next year.

But coming up with a better policy that meets the district's budget constraints and educational goals is easier said than done. Howell said she'll meet with the administrative team this week to try to reach common ground on appropriate staffing levels in district schools.

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