Class-size reduction possible for next year’s first grade: A foundation could close funding gap |

Class-size reduction possible for next year’s first grade: A foundation could close funding gap

William Ferchland

With the assistant superintendent’s endorsement and a fund-raising drive under way, class-size reduction for first grade could return to Lake Tahoe Unified School District next year, depending on a vote tonight by the district’s board.

Although there is a possibility the board might take more time to explore the issue during a 6 p.m. meeting at the district office, available classroom space and money outside the district’s general fund has facilitated the possible return.

Board President Wendy David felt the board had enough information to move forward.

The program for first grade would cost the district $359,854 if the state didn’t provide funding. Since the state would provide 78 percent of necessary money, the district’s cost is $78,366.

Brooke Laine, a member of the Lake Tahoe Education Foundation, said the organization has a goal to provide $80,000 to the district for class-size reduction. The plan is to deliver the bulk of the amount by Aug. 1.

State law requires school districts to provide class-size reduction to first grade, then second, then either third grade or kindergarten. Class-size reduction caps the maximum number of students in a classroom at 20.

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The program, from kindergarten to third grade, was eliminated before this school year because of financial restrictions mainly caused by declining enrollment.

The benefits of smaller class sizes are numerous. Instructors can focus on student needs better and hone in on students struggling with state standards. Parents can take comfort that their children are receiving adequate attention.

In addition, at least five more teachers will be needed and likely reinstated from a pool that received layoff notices because of budget cuts. At least 20 teachers were given notices for next school year.

Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis recommended the board direct administrators to look into bringing the program into the second grade, a step that would have a price tag of $95,656.

Another option for the second grade is having 20 students in a classroom half the day – during math and English lessons – which would bring back one teacher to the three elementary schools.

David said the return of class-size reduction for second grade is “very likely.” She also wanted the program to be in the district for several years.

“I hope that making a commitment, if that’s a choice of the board (tonight), will be a minimum of a three-year commitment,” David said. “We’re planning for the future.”

Other agenda items include:

— A discussion and possible action on the “fair share” program in which school athletes would voluntarily donate money next school year to play sports.

— A resolution and board approval to meet the requirements of the Williams settlement, a civil case that demands that all students have access to proper instructional materials.

— A report by School Safety Coordinator Lisa Huard on the safety of schools.

— Report by Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis on attendance rates and usefulness of the School Attendance Review Board.