With the start of school less than two weeks away,
administrators are keeping a close eye on class sizes and making
adjustments to balance out the number of children in classrooms at
each grade level.
A class size “watch list” was the hot topic of discussion at
last night’s school board meeting. The list, below and also
available on South Kitsap School District’s website, shows grade
levels and sections at each school that are overcrowded by
standards of the local teachers’ union, the South Kitsap Educations
Association. Some math and science classes at the high school show
up to 40 students per section. Other areas of particular concern
are East Port Orchard Elementary, where more than half the classes
are near or at maximum capacity, and John Sedgwick Junior High,
where most science and math classes are near, at or above the max.
Take a look at the list to see where your child’s school and grade
The watch list is in flux, as administrators try to balance
class sizes, but South Kitsap is up against challenging budget
constraints, entering the new school year with the largest
reduction in force in recent memory.
Sixty-one teaching positions were slated for elimination in May.
The district got some enhanced funding from the state and made
other adjustments, enabling some positions to be restored. (And the
original RIF counted four positions twice.) The RIF now stands at
39.5 FTE teachers, according to finance director Sandy Rotella
(although the budget document reviewed at last night’s meeting says
42.8 positions). Certificated staffing (teachers) will drop from
617 last year to 575 this school year, for a projected enrollment
of 9,086 students, according to the posted budget. So some increase
in class sizes is inevitable, especially at the secondary level,
where classes have previously been staffed more generously than the
teachers’ contract calls for.
The teachers’ union is in the midst of tense negotiations.
Members are supposed to vote on a contract on Monday. But class
sizes have become a sticking point. At last night’s meeting
Superintendent Michelle Reid outlined the district’s dilemma when
it comes to balancing class sizes and teachers’ pay. Eighty-five
percent of the district’s budget is for personnel, said Reid, so
one way or another the number of people times the amount they are
paid must equal 85 percent of revenues. The district and the union
must strike a balance between more teachers and higher pay, Reid
There is some funding that may be allocated for additional
positions, but the district is proceeding cautiously, she
Another aspect of the contract that bears directly on students
is language governing class sizes. The current contract lists
“preferred” and “maximum” average class sizes at each grade level.
Here it is, with preferred and max listed in that order (I’ve only
listed academic classes; PE allows more per section at each level,
which is detailed on the watch list.)
K-3rd: 1:24; 1:25
4th: 1:28; 1:29
5th-6th: 1:30; 1:31
“Split” classes that combine two or more elementary grade
1-3: 1:22; 1:24
4-5: 1:25; 1:27
5-6: 1:28; 1:30
7-9: 1:33; 1:35
10-12: 1:35; 1:37
Teachers receive monetary compensation for each class with
students over the maximum, but without exception, all would prefer
to skip the bonus, said John Richardson, union president.
According to union spokeswoman Judy Arbogast, teachers expect up
to 3 additional students per class in many classes at the junior
high and secondary levels. While one or two students here and there
may not sound like much, one secondary teacher, commenting on blog
post by the superintendent put it this way:
In the past few years, my class sizes have risen from about
28 to about 35 students per class. With average class sizes of 35,
I cannot meet the needs of every student, no matter how hard I try.
I want to give individualized feedback on student work, but
struggle when there are just too many essays to grade or projects
to evaluate. …
The challenges of more students in each class and a higher
workload outside the school day are some of what is driving good,
competent teachers out of the profession. I know of several
colleagues who have left SK in the past years (many of their
positions have NOT been filled) and our department and school are
poorer without them.
Karen Little a counselor at John Sedgwick Junior High School,
said the concept of average class sizes is misleading, because some
like special education are as low as 12, pushing the allowed
average maximum up well above 30 students. Tasked with assigning
students to classes, Little is struggling.
“I feel like I’m playing chess and somebody’s given me a quarter
of a board, and I can’t move anything” Little said.
Teachers also are concerned about increased class sizes in split
classrooms. New learning standards and high stakes tests require
focused instruction, making it hard for teachers to devote adequate
time to students at each grade level. “It’s impossible for me to
teach the entire curriculum in half the time,” said Kim Waterman,
who teaches a 5-6 split. “It’s impossible to do a really good job
by those kids. And that bothers me.”
Chris Lemke noted that the number of students in elementary
schools varies. Some schools are crowded; others are below
capacity. Lemke said the board recently began talking about ways to
even out the distribution, either by moving students to a different
school or re-drawing district boundaries. If any of that happens,
Lemke said, it won’t happen quickly.
Reporter Steve Gardner is working on a story about how students
are assigned to classes. It’s set to run Tuesday.
Class Size Watch List
Share on Facebook