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Principals develop worksheets on staffing alternatives

Estimate impact on class size

February 9, 2010
By Kremena Spengler Journal Staff Writer

NEW ULM District 88 principals have developed worksheets showing how staffing changes would affect class sizes next year, as part of the process of drafting the 2010-11 budget.

On Jan. 28, the School Board set a budget reduction target of $450,000 to $600,000 for next year.

The decision means administrators will try to develop a list of cuts amounting to this target; specific cuts will then be approved by the board later.

The board is implementing a combination approach to budget development - making cuts and spending down part of the district's fund balance.

The board is planning to use up $350,000 of the fund balance, in addition to the cuts.

The principals have shared the following information with the board this month:

Jefferson Elementary School (K-3 grade)

This year, class sections in Jefferson School have 20 to 26 students each.

If staff numbers remain the same as this year, section sizes in Jefferson School would remain similar - edging down slightly to a range of 20 to 24 students per section.

However, if sections were reduced by one per grade level, then the section sizes in each grade would increase to a range of 23 to 30 students.


Elementary School (4-6 grade)

At this time, sections in Washington School range from 23 to 25 students.

If current staffing remains unchanged next year, then section sizes would not significantly change they would be in the 23 to 26 students range.

If one teacher is reduced per grade, then sections would have 28 to 31 students each.

In comparison, if one teacher were added per grade, then sections would have between 20 and 22 students.

Generally, the board has tried to avoid across-the-board staffing reductions in elementary grades in the more recent past.

It has favored a more differentiated approach based on the enrollment per grade.

High School

(7-12 grade)

Because the High School is organized differently from the elementary schools, with different numbers of students registering for different courses every year, the high school report is delivered in a different format.

Class sizes there vary more, depending on enrollment and students' year-to-year choices.

For example, an industrial technology class may be limited to 16 students because of safety and the number of work stations; while a class in a core subject such as English may have 30 students.

According to the High School report, currently, the school employs teachers who hold the full-time equivalent of 49.75 teaching contracts.

Maintaining the current class sizes next year would result in the full-time equivalent of 48.15 teaching contracts, or essentially similar staffing as this year.

This calculation, for the purposes of budget deliberation, is based on the assumption that an equivalent number of students register for an equivalent slate of courses, which is by definition unlikely.

Increasing the class sizes at the high school next year by 5 percent across the board would reduce the teaching contracts to 46.1.

Increasing class sizes by 2.5 percent would translate into 46.65 teaching contracts.

The principals are providing these calculations, all of which involve assumptions about enrollment and registration, to help the board better picture the impact of staff reductions.

Because of the nature of the education "business," the bulk of the school budget goes toward salaries; so, each year, contracts are a large part of budget deliberation. Class size considerations often drive the discussion.

Following the discussion of staffing alternatives, the school board is expected to review administrative recommendations for cuts, and make a decision on those, during two meetings in March.



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