SVSU committee considers policy on optimal class size

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BENNINGTON >> At the February meeting of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Policy Committee meeting, several policies were tackled, including #6400, concerning the optimum class size.

Career Development Center representative Bruce Lee-Clark and Woodford representative Dick Franz had been working on updating the policy, and had recommended striking language that limited the minimum number of students a class could have a the middle or high school level and still run. Specifically, it called for a yearly minimum of 10 students in a class.

"There is no policy I could find here, or anywhere else in Vermont, or anywhere else period, that says that a school shall not run a class with less than x number of students, and you can put any number in that x that you want," said Lee-Clark, "There isn't a policy out there." He said that typically, decisions such as that are left up to the superintendent, who can weigh several factors before coming to a decision.

"I would not suggest," he said, "and maybe there are people here who have a different way of looking at it, putting in that no classes shall run in grades 7-12 that are less than, say, 10 students. That's not what a policy should say, because it hamstrings everybody. What if there are nine students ready to take some advanced chemistry, and the teacher is ready to do it, and it's going to get some of those kids into careers that they will end up being very successful in, why would we so no, sorry, it doesn't meet the policy, we can't do that?"

Bennington representative Jackie Kelly agreed with Lee-Clark, pointing out that a student could be taking an online class, and would be, so far as the school is concerned, a class of one, which would violate the policy. "I think it's totally a budget issue for the school principal and personal," she said. Franz seconded that idea, saying that if the high school staff wanted to do something about class sizes, they could do so internally, and that an SU-wide policy that told them how to do that should not be required.

Many members of the committee also saw similar issues with the maximum class sizes laid out in the policy. They currently read, "At the elementary level, classes in grades K-3, when taken together, shall average fewer than 20 students per teacher. In grades 4-12, when taken together, classes shall average fewer than 25 students per teacher." Before making any changes, however, the committee decided to discuss the matter with building principals, none of whom were present at the meeting. The committee agreed to table their discussion until the principals could be consulted.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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