Board Considers Class Size Policy

Board Considers Class Size Policy

School Board chairman John Andrews raises questions about proposed guideline.

he Legislative/Policy Committee of the School Board has recommended a new policy addressing classroom size.

School Board chairman John Andrews sent it back to the committee Tuesday night for further study. “I support the intent, but I want to make sure we aren’t doing something leading to the detriment to other schools in the county, especially in Sterling and Leesburg."

The policy, proposed by Priscilla Godfrey (Blue Ridge), would add the following language to the School Assignment Guidelines: “An elementary student who is scheduled to attend a school whose assigned class size exceeds 25 students may apply to attend a school whose class size is below 21 students.”

Deputy Superintendent Ned Waterhouse told the board that the policy would require the parent or guardian to transport the child; and administration approval would be given both on an individual and on an annual basis.

ANDREWS SAID he is concerned about the impact of allowing students in an overcrowded classroom to attend a class that the school district intentionally reduced in size to improve the learning environment for students with limited English proficiency. He cited elementary schools in Sterling as examples.

He also pointed out that some of the new elementary schools might have low classroom sizes, but the situation could change rapidly, because they are in high-growth areas.

Another concern was whether a student would be allowed to continue attending the schools with smaller classroom sizes, he said. “Would that allow them to be grandfathered into third, fourth and fifth grade even if that means overcrowding? Would they fight to stay in that school and not move again?”

PARENTS OF STUDENTS attending Middleburg Elementary School, where enrollment is exceptionally small, testified in favor of the proposal. Carla Passarello said the school draws fewer students because it is located in the western part of the county, which has a small population. “During the last couple of years, you have questioned enrollment in Middleburg Elementary,” she said.

Passarello cited the policy as a solution. She said the new guidelines would increase Middleburg’s classrooms sizes while relieving the overcrowded situation in other parts of the county.

David Quambeck voiced his support, adding that he would like the policy modified to allow students from any overcrowded school or those attending temporary schools to be allowed to transfer.

BOB OHNEISER (Broad Run) objected to delaying a vote on the policy. He said he would like it initiated this school year. “It’s easy to see nine children are in first grade and nine children are in the fourth grade in Middleburg,” he said. Administrators might be forced to double up on that school's classes if the policy is not implemented. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

He underscored the crowding situation at some Ashburn schools, where classrooms have 28 to 30 students.

Andrews said the policy would affect every school in the county, so he wants to make sure it's solid. “The issue is bigger than Ashburn and Middleburg,” he said.

The committee will take another look at the policy when it meets again at 5 p.m., Oct. 26, in the board conference room on North Street.