Steamboat Springs School board members Monday considered whether the Steamboat Springs School District’s policies on class size are sustainable and the best use of district funding.
Board member Roger Good pointed out that the district prioritizes keeping class sizes as low as possible but continues to struggle to balance its budget each year.
“Can we sustain this?” Good questioned. “My conclusion is we can’t.”
The district’s current policy aims to keep elementary class sizes at no more than 20 students and secondary classes at no more than 25 students, though larger classes do exist and are often then supported by interventionists to allow for small group work.
Overall, the district’s ratio of teachers to students is just under 14:1, a ratio that includes classroom teachers and other licensed staff working with students.
Good said the district is challenged to give teachers raises and should consider comparing the student-teacher ratios in the districts where teachers are paid the same or more as in Steamboat.
While the district’s overall teacher-to-student radio is lower than the state’s average of 17.5:1, a lack of physical classrooms has limited the number of classes per grade in some cases, in addition to a tight budget.
Next year, Soda Creek Elementary is expected to have 26 or 27 students in each of four fifth-grade classes and an interventionist to support fifth grade, as there are just enough available physical classrooms for each of the school’s expected 25 kindergarten through fifth-grade classes.
School leaders plan to move fifth grade classes back into Soda Creek’s main campus and out of temporary modular spaces and repurpose the spaces for uses other than regular classrooms.
Education Fund Board President Sam Jones attended Monday’s school board meeting to remind the board that the fund’s financial support of the district is possible because of Steamboat Springs voters, who were promised small class sizes.
“It was and remains a primary driver behind voter support,” Jones said, reading a prepared statement from the Education Fund Board.
Jones said any savings realized by increasing class sizes would be overshadowed by a potential loss of millions in Education Fund money if voters choose not to renew the tax in 2018.
“You guys are kind of playing with fire here if you’re talking about changing ratios,” Jones said.
The board's discussion of class sizes Monday was held in conjunction with a discussion about the district's policy for allowing out-of-district students into Steamboat schools.
The district's current policy allows students from out of the district to attend Steamboat schools only when there is room within a given grade level for that year, though students are then allowed to stay for future years.
Currently, about 137 out-of-district students attend Steamboat schools in grades K-12, including 30 who did live in Steamboat and then moved and 19 who are children of school district employees.
To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow