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Newhall district boost class size to save money

State cuts make budgets more important than instruction, superintendent Marc Winger says

Posted: June 4, 2009 10:48 p.m.
Updated: June 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Newhall School District plans to increase primary-grade class sizes for the 2009-10 school year in the hope of saving $185,000 toward looming state budget cuts.

"The state has put us in a position that has us worry about money first, then instruction," said Superintendent Marc Winger.

After analyzing the number of teachers leaving through natural attrition and the district's early-retirement incentive program, Newhall School District officials found themselves with 11 openings for teachers, Winger said.

But the district is unable to hire new teachers, given the likelihood that education will take another big hit in a new round of state budget cuts, Winger said.

If those positions were filled, the teachers could be laid off as part of future budget cuts at the end of the 2009-10 school year, he said.

The situation led district board members to increase the number of students in primary classes Tuesday as a way to capture savings.

"Just by changing small adjustments in class sizes, we can avoid hiring 11 people," Winger said. "No one loses their job and yet we save almost $200,000 across the district."

Except for two schools, all kindergarten classes in the district will have two teachers for 30 students, he said.

Two schools, McGrath and Wiley Canyon elementary schools, will keep class sizes to 22 students through the use of their Title I funding from the economic stimulus package, Winger said.

Currently, half of the school sites currently have 30 kids and two teachers in kindergarten, while the other half have 20 students and one teacher.

All third-grade classes in the Newhall School District will have 24 students, an increase by four students, Winger said.

"It's primarily a fiscal decision," Winger said.

While Winger said he's not happy about having increased class sizes, he would rather see it in third grade instead of first and second, as kids begin learning how to read in first and second.

"By third grade, kids are getting a handle on reading," he said, "And they're getting more independent."

Board members already approved increasing class sizes in first and second grade to 22 students, an increase of two students per classroom, in May.

As for putting more students in a classroom, Winger isn't sure how it will impact student education.

"I don't know how it's going to affect achievement," he said, adding that it's a wait-and-see situation for all districts dealing with increased class sizes.

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