Fri10242014

Schools

Class size reduction plan working in LASD - for now

Los Altos School District officials are uncertain of how California's plan to reduce class size will affect district campuses and funds during a period of soaring enrollments.

Superintendent Marge Gratiot said the district reduced its first, second and third grade class sizes without cutting any existing programs or increasing class sizes in the upper grades. She said the parcel tax provided the district with enough funds to add 17 portable classrooms and hire 17 new teachers - something some districts in Santa Clara County couldn't afford to do.

"It's really going to be a year-to-year balancing act," Gratiot said. "Smaller classes are tremendously beneficial. I think fewer children will fall through the cracks and children's achievements should go up, but we have to balance the benefits from smaller classes with the long-term effects of the whole educational program."

School board member John Moss said the board is examining the effect of the state's program, which limits 20 students per classroom in the primary grades. Members are worried about the overall impact of overcrowding campuses with additional classrooms, he said.

"We want to know if it (smaller classes) is paying the dividends," Moss said. "The students have more places to study, but is this beneficial when children have less space to exercise?"

Gratiot said the district will have to reduce the size of its kindergarten classes next year as part of the state program. The district plans to reduce its classes by splitting them into two sessions to reduce the cost of leasing more buildings and hiring more teachers, she said.

The district has projected enrollment at Santa Rita and Almond schools to rise above 600 next year, Gratiot said. To keep school enrollments below 400, the district may have to re-open Covington School and change school boundaries. Gratiot said the estimated yearly cost to run another school like Covington would be an additional $600,000. If Covington is re-opened, the pre-school, child care center and private school for disabled children that are leasing the facility will be cut. The district will lose $350,000 in lease income, she said. This additional expense is one reason why the district didn't re-open the school this year, Gratiot said.

"We would really have a hard time running the kind of program we run if we had to re-open Covington right now," Gratiot said.

Gratiot said the state pays $650 per student, but the district estimated it costs an additional $150 per student to implement class size reductions. The state funds 80 percent of the cost its program, she said.

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