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Westport Considers Smaller Classes; School Budget Up $5 Million

With some Westport public school classrooms accommodating more than 30 students, the idea of implementing smaller class sizes was discussed at the Board of Education meeting Monday night.

 

Although Superintendent Dr. Elliott Landon recommended a 2013-14 school budget that is a 5 percent increase over the current budget ($100.3 million), the Board of Education discussed potentially having smaller class sizes during a meeting Monday night.

Staples High School Principal John Dodig said there has been a “paradigm shift” in how students are asked to learn in districts like Westport. The trend shows that students are more actively engaged in classroom instruction and activities.

“It’s better with fewer kids in a classroom,” Dodig said.

Landon said there are other methods to decreasing class sizes in lieu of capital investments. Landon discussed “redistricting” and possibly having all kindergarten students at one building in order to reduce class sizes throughout the district.

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Board of Education member Mark Mathias, who was in favor of smaller class sizes, said greater costs would come with smaller class sizes.

“If we want smaller class sizes we have to determine how much we want to spend to make that happen,” Mathias said.

Board of Education Vice Chair Michael McGovern said he was not completely convinced about the correlation between class size and the performance of Westport students.

“It doesn’t seem to be broken, and we may be trying to fix something that, perhaps, isn’t broken,” McGovern said.

Advanced Placement (AP) courses can accommodate 30 or more students because teachers are instructing dedicated students, but an oversized elementary class can be problematic, according to Mathias.

Occasionally, young children will begin school in Westport without knowing colors, numbers, letters, or how to read, and usually they require more attention from their teacher, Landon said.

“It is vital to bring them up to a level where they can compete adequately throughout the years,” Landon said. “It’s a general consensus, and my belief, that the smaller the class -- the better the performance.”

Although Staples High School would need seven more teachers to bring it to the student / teacher ratio it was at nearly 9 years ago, the school maintains a positive learning environment, according to Dodig.

“We keep an environment where all kids are known and everyone feels comfortable in the school,” Dodig said.

In other matters, Landon recommended a 2013-14 school budget of approximately $105.3 million, which is more than a $5 million increase from the current budget. The Board of Education will discuss the recommended budget on Friday.

Karen January 08, 2013 at 12:41 PM
Years ago when we were pleading for this the Board of Ed flat out denied it saying it was not necessary. Interesting to hear them saying what we were saying years ago! It is very difficult for a teacher to focus her attention on 25 or more kids at a critical age in learning.
vincent Petrecca January 08, 2013 at 01:58 PM
We have 540 teachers and 5500 students in the school system..A ratio of 10 to 1.. The issue is the vast number of diverse courses offered at our schools.. If interested..go to Staples HS web site and view the many paged courses available. Literally everything from pottery to black room photo development.. Focus our course selection and we have plenty of teachers..
Sam Adams January 08, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Vincent, I am sorry, but that has got to be one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. Are you saying that because I am a doctor I can automatically operate on your brain? Remove your heart? How about a Kidney transplant?
vincent Petrecca January 08, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Sam, I just think that we offer far to many diverse courses in our school system... Examples: 2 Dim Studio..Watercolor to Advanced dark room. 3 Dim Studio..Pottery to advanced jewelry making. World Lit ......The Caribbean... Culinary Arts... German ??? Just review our vast list of offerings and discipline it... Lot more teachers available..... Not sure about all the doctors..

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