SMMUSD HDQTRS — As school district officials continue to address a budget deficit caused by state funding cuts, one area likely to take a hit is class sizes.

The teacher-to-student ratio is expected to increase at nearly every grade level and school starting in September, potentially saving the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District about $1.2 million.

District officials last week presented projected staffing ratios for the 2009-10 academic year, showing that class sizes could jump from 20-to-1 to 23-to-1 for kindergarten to third grade at all schools.

Class sizes at John Adams Middle School are slated to increase from 29-to-1 to 30-to-1 and from 31-to-1 to 32-to-1 for all other secondary schools, including Santa Monica High School.

The staffing ratio change is just one of several cost savings measures the SMMUSD is considering instituting next year, including laying off or reassigning administrators in the district central office, reorganizing the House System at Samohi, and reducing the budget for special education to reflect actual expenditures.

The fourth and fifth grade classes at both John Muir and McKinley will actually decrease to align with the staffing ratios at the other two Title 1 schools. Doing so will reduce the size from 30-to-1 to 25-to-1. Title 1 schools typically have a higher population of students from low-income families who receive some form of federal assistance.

“We believe the district has done a good thing in the past by addressing issues in two of the Title 1 schools and we believe it should be spread equally at all Title 1 schools,” Mike Matthews, the assistant superintendent for human resources, said.

The staffing ratios are likely to change over the next six months as more information comes in about enrollment levels, which has been increasing from the extra students going from private to public schools.

Officials are also considering loosening permit restrictions on students who don’t reside in the district, opening it up to children of Samohi, Malibu High and Olympic High School alumni where at least one parent works in the district boundaries. Those students will be given priority when the officials determine who to admit.

The district relaxed its permit moratorium — which was instituted in the 2001-02 academic year to alleviate overcrowded classrooms — last year, which led to an extra 150 non-resident students enrolling. Matthews said he expects the trend to continue this year if the Board of Education opts to open applications again.

A decision is expected to be made on the permit policy at the board meeting on April 2.

“We won’t open permit doors until we have a real solid picture of our residential enrollment,” Matthews said.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association recently sent out a questionnaire to teachers in kindergarten through third grade, asking how the class size increase will impact their ability work with children, Harry Keiley, the union president said at a board meeting last Thursday.

“We are very much aware of the challenging economic times we are in and that we’re facing,” he said. “We didn’t have one layoff in this district and that’s a great celebration and any type of reduction to teachers we have is going to happen through attrition and natural retirement and that is a real big success story in this environment and we should collectively feel good about that.”

School board members stressed that the class size increase should be temporary and restored after the district weathers the financial storm.

“This is something we’re doing in a time of fiscal emergency,” School board member Ben Allen said. “It’s an act of prudence but we understand it’s a difficult decision to make and that we’re making it in this economic climate and it is a temporary decision.”

melodyh@smdp.com

Print Friendly