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.