School Board Committed to Class Size Reduction

Thursday May 30, 13

In an announcement at the May 28 school board meeting, the board will spend $1 million from the general fund balance, over the next three years, to primarily help reduce class sizes and solidify additional mental health services for students. This comes at a time when the board believes they are in a good financial position to make some changes.

The school board's goal is to move from an average of 24.2 students per teacher to 22.5 students per teacher. To accomplish this, the board plans to add another four FTE for the 2013-14 school year and will be split between the buildings: two FTE at the elementary level, one at the middle school and one at the high school.

Because of the district's fiscal management, there is a sufficient general fund balance. There have been a few contributing factors to make this possible such as the Education Jobs Bill, OPEB Bonds and avoided energy costs. The Education Jobs Bill provided $1 million over a two-year period (from 2010-12). OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) Bonds have helped to earn funds to pay for post employment benefits while freeing up payment obligations from the general fund. Over the past decade, the district has also avoided over $3 million in energy costs.  It all has added up.

Superintendent Scott Thielman states, "Education funding always seems to be on unsteady ground, so this district has always wanted to maintain a safety net. We are at a place now where we feel that we can make this important investment into the reduction of class sizes."

Over the past two school years, the board approved one additional full-time equivalent (FTE) position to address class sizes. These two FTE allocations were added to address "hot spots" around the district where extra staffing was needed. This does not mean it is just two positions rather it could be several. For example, staffing could be added in needed areas that totals one FTE: .5 high school math, .2 elementary reading and .3 middle school social studies.

In addition, the board has kept a close eye on the district's eminent needs and how to best allocate funds to those areas of concern. They committed funding to a capital improvement project at the high school-replacing a portion of an aging roof in the summer of 2013. They approved a new social studies curriculum K-12 that will be implemented during the 2013-14 school year, and improvements have been made to strengthen the district's technology infrastructure.