Class-size restrictions recommended in report
February 9, 2004
A long-awaited Aspen School District report on out-of-district enrollment recommends average class sizes and, most controversially, sets selection guidelines, including a lottery, to determine which downvalley students can enroll if average class sizes are exceeded.
The report, completed by a district task force that studied student capacity, does, however, recommend out-of-district students continue to be admitted if class size is below the suggested average.
The report, which was acquired by The Aspen Times on Friday, is scheduled for discussion tonight by the Aspen School Board. The board is expected to vote in the coming weeks on whether to adopt the recommendations.
The task force, which is composed of parents, teachers, administrators and students, was formed in the summer of 2003 to shape the district’s policies on class size and out-of-district enrollment. An abnormally large first-grade class last year raised concerns of classes swelling beyond acceptable limits.
Four of the five school board members serve on the task force along with citizens. Board member Sally Harness, the only member not to participate, said she has some catching up to do.
“I have a lot of questions to ask,” she said. “I’m going to take a lot more time asking things because I wasn’t there when the task forces came up with their recommendations.”
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The task force’s primary goal was to set average class-size limits. It recommends the board adopt a class average of 16-18 students for grades K-two, 18-20 students for grades three-four, 20-22 students for grades five-12.
The report emphasizes that removing out-of-district students is an “unlikely event” and that once a student begins a school year he or she will be allowed to finish.
It recommends class sizes be monitored by school principals. If a grade has spaces open, the principal can accept out-of-district students.
If there are fewer spots than out-of-district applications, the task force recommends that priority be given first to students with the longest tenure in the school district. Next in line would be applicants with a sibling attending an Aspen school. Any additional vacancies would be filled by lottery selection.
“If the factors listed above are equal and there are additional enrollments spots that must be eliminated … a lottery will occur to determine admittance,” the report says.
Children of district employees who reside outside the district will be considered in-district students in the task forces proposal.
Expecting a strong response from the public, the school board has moved its public meeting to the large high school seminar room. They will meet at 6 p.m., an hour later than usual, to accommodating working parents who wish to attend.
[Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]