Smaller classes officially the goal in Woodland District 50

  • The Woodland School District 50 board voted Thursday night to lower class size guidelines for next year.

      The Woodland School District 50 board voted Thursday night to lower class size guidelines for next year. Doug T. Graham | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted9/29/2017 5:30 AM

The Woodland School District 50 board approved a plan Thursday to lower class size guidelines districtwide next year over the opposition of two board members who thought the plan wasn't properly vetted.

Current guidelines set kindergarten through third-grade classrooms at 25 or fewer students, and fourth- through eighth-grade classes have 25 to 27 students.

 

The new policy approved Thursday lowers class-size goals for kindergarten to 15 to 18 students, for first- through third-grade classrooms to 18 to 21 students, and for fourth- through eighth-grade classrooms to 21 to 24 students.

Superintendent Joy Swoboda said their new guidelines are based on the best practices of the state and are intended to increase student's performance.

The vote does not immediately increase the amount of money the district will spend on teachers next year.

However, the district estimates that if the board follows the guidelines passed, the district will need to hire 48 new teachers and part-time staff.

If those staff members were hired at the bottom of the district's pay scale, the additional cost would total around $2.5 million next year.

Board members Chris Schrantz and Terry Hall voted against the plan and tried several times to delay the board's action. Hall said the plan hadn't been discussed enough by the board.

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The topic was discussed at a special Saturday morning board meeting on Aug. 5 attended by every board member except Hall.

Board President Carla Little said the board has been talking about class sizes since members were seated in May. She emphasized that the board's vote didn't mean the district was going to spend more money.

"Tonight we're voting on the idea of these goals, not necessarily the dollar amount," Little said.

Schrantz said while the district needs to do right by the students of today, officials also needed to think five, 10 years into the future and get a sense of what the financial impact will be on the district.

"We just don't have the information to go into the future on how we're going to pay for this," Schrantz said. "I think it's premature."

Tony DeMonte, a former board member who served one term and lost his bid for re-election in April, spoke against the plan in public comment. He asked that the board make the class size decision part of the larger strategic planning process, which the board is set to start soon.

"Every decision the board makes has a short- and long-term cost to it," DeMonte said. "I would love to know that dollar amount."

Board member Joseph De Rosa, who voted for the plan, said it was a priority for the new board to announce to the community that it was willing to lower class sizes.

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