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SMMUSD HDQRTRS – Schools have more teachers and fewer students this year.

Enrollment at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District dropped for the second year in a row but student-to-teacher ratios improved significantly for the first time since the early days of the economic downturn.

There were 11,274 students enrolled in the district as of Sept. 16, according to district officials, down from 11,315 students last year.

Over the past decade, enrollment has dropped by more than a thousand students.

In the 2004-05 school year, 12,545 kids were enrolled in the district but, with the exception of a couple slight upticks, that number has decreased steadily.

District officials are predicting a slight gain next year. Enrollment, they say, will be back up over 12,000 in seven years.

Staffing, meanwhile, has risen district-wide, with almost every secondary school and several elementary schools seeing some kind of increase.

Franklin Elementary School, for example, gained the equivalent of two full-time staff members last year. Class sizes in Franklin’s first, second, and third grades dropped this year. Last year there were an average of 29.5 kids per class in the third grade and this year it’s 25. Class-sizes in the fourth and fifth grades rose at Franklin, each up to 29.5 students per class.

At the high schools, average class sizes shrank to 35, from 36 last school year. In the 2009-10 school year there was an average of 32 students per class.

“At Santa Monica High School there’s room for us to maybe look at what we did this year and see if there’s something that we want to do differently next year,” said Debra Moore Washington, assistant superintendent of human resources. “This though, is a very large school where the balancing of classes is an extra jigsaw with 3,000 students that you have to place into classes in ways that are going to balance the classes.”

At the secondary levels, where students have more freedom to pick their classes, balance can be particularly challenging. Only 13 Samohi students are enrolled in Chinese 2. Only 13 kids at John Adams Middle School (JAMS) are taking geometry.

“That’s a discussion that maybe the board needs to engage in,” Washington said. “Are we going to keep some of these classes that we know are going to traditionally run smaller than 25, which then pushes some other classes to be larger?”

Class sizes at non-Title I elementary schools improved substantially this year, dropping from a 30-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio to a 25-to-1 ratio this year. Title I elementary schools remained at a 25-to-1 ratio. Ratios for sixth to eighth graders improved as well. All the other ratios held pat.

At JAMS there are seven science classes that have 35 students and four classes that have 36 students.

A representative from the teachers’ union, while expressing appreciation for the improvements, pointed in particular to the science classes as an area that needs more work.

While about 50 percent of students in the district are white, about 65 percent of the teachers and 68 percent of the administrators are white.

Washington said that the district is in the process of trying to balance the diversity of the staff with the diversity of the students.

dave@www.smdp.com

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