School board made hard but correct decision
February 13, 2004
In an ideal world, we would all be able to send our children to school wherever we wanted. There would be ample room at any public school of a parent’s choosing, and all schools would be created equal, with talented teachers, modern facilities and superior programs.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. As The Aspen Times has reported, midvalley students are transferring into the Aspen School District at an increasing rate, particularly in the lower grades. On its face, there’s nothing wrong about this trend ” everyone should be able to send their kids where they want to, right? ” but it has created stresses in both districts.
Because the state of Colorado funds public education on a per-pupil basis, the downvalley Roaring Fork District loses revenue when it loses students ” as much as $1 million per year. That money flows, of course, to the Aspen district, student by student. But the Aspen schools also feel the squeeze in a physical way ” they have to cram more students into the same amount of space.
In other words, class sizes increase. And when there are more students per teacher, it becomes harder to teach and harder to learn.
This week, after watching class sizes increase and converting several nonacademic spaces into classrooms, the Aspen School District board set class-size limits. These caps will have the effect of barring some inter-district transfer students.
“Out-of-district students are a valuable part of Aspen schools,” said Jon Seigle, board president. “But our priority has to be to the students in our district.”
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Well said. The out-of-district pupils are unfortunate victims in this decision, but it was nevertheless the right decision. Lower class sizes will help the Aspen district maintain quality education, and that should be any school board’s first priority.
The new class-size limits will vary by grade: 16 to 18 students for grades K-2, 18 to 20 students for grades 3-4, and 20 to 22 students for grades 5-12. These are enviable numbers by statewide standards, and the school board is right to maintain them.
We sympathize with those downvalley students who may not be able to attend Aspen schools, but this policy should not force out any children in the middle of the year.
This decision may cause some short-term hardship, but in the end we believe it will strengthen the downvalley schools.