Newton Class Sizes Down Slightly; School Committee Focuses on Need for Override
Several Newton School Committee members said class sizes will only remain stable if the March 12 override package passes.
Although the district showed slight improvement in this year's class size numbers, Newton School Committee members Monday night said the March 12 override must pass in order to keep class sizes stable.
"The overall conversation is about how our class sizes are holding steady, but there are 250 more kids coming in next year and there are many teachers we need to hire to serve those children well," School Committee Chair Claire Sokoloff said.
According to the district's annual class size report, which was presented last night by Deputy Superintendent/Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Guryan, both the elementary and middle school class sizes are down after a ten-year high reported last year. High school class sizes are also down slightly.
The average elementary school class size is down from 22.3 students last year to 22 students this year, Guryan said. The middle school average class size, which Guryan said showed the most improvement, is down from 22.8 to 21.9 this year.
"This is an improvement," Guryan said. "It's reflective of steps we've taken to handle rising enrollment."
Those steps include "targeted" staffing additions that were, for the most part, funded through extra state aid awarded to Newton last year, Superintendent David Fleishman said.
The average middle school team size is also down from 92 students to 91 students this year, however, there are still some large teams in the district including sixth grade at Brown (95 students), sixth grade at F.A. Day (93 students) and eighth grade at F.A. Day (96 students).
The target team size is around 88-90 students.
Nevertheless, Guryan said the team sizes are more balanced between the three grades (6-8) and four middle schools this year. The numbers also show an improvement from some Oak Hill and F.A. Day teams that exceeded 100 students last year.
At the high schools, the average class size (five major subject areas) is down slightly from 22 to 21.9, but still remains at a high point for the decade, the report says.
Moving forward, keeping classes at a size "that we know will help [students] learn," Sokoloff said the district needs funding from the proposed override.
Newton voters will head the polls on March 12 to vote on Mayor Setti Warren's $11.4 million override package. The override consists of three ballot questions, including an $8.4 million operating override and two debt exclusion overrides for the rebuilding of Angier and Cabot elementary schools.
Within the $8.4 million operating override, the mayor has designated $4.5 million to handle growth and enrollment in the Newton Public Schools, which has led to higher class sizes, school officials say. The $4.5 million is slated to cover costs for additional teachers, professional development, technology and some short-term facilities needs.
"The override will allow us to keep the class sizes at around what they are now, and solve some of the more egregious problems of larger class sizes," Sokoloff said.
The district's full class size report is included in the .pdf section above.
Elementary class sizes (last three years)
Middle school class and team sizes
|Middle School class size||21.2||21.7||21.7||22.8||21.9|
|Middle School team size||87||90||90||92||91|
High school class sizes
Classrooms with 25 students or more
Classrooms with fewer than 20 students