Aspen School Board sets limits on class size |

Aspen School Board sets limits on class size

Eben Harrell
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen School Board acted decisively to set limitations on class size yesterday, a move which could force out-of-district students to leave Aspen’s schools.

The board heard a presentation by a task force that studied whether out-of-district enrollment was swelling class sizes beyond desirable limits. Several large grades have raised concerns recently; in the elementary school, a musical band room and an auxiliary gymnasium have had to be converted to classrooms.

“Out-of-district students are a valuable part of Aspen schools,” board President Jon Seigle said. “They provide state income while also adding diversity and vibrancy to the schools. But our priority has to be to the students in our district. This is what we are trying to balance.”

The board accepted the task force’s recommendations on class sizes. They did so decisively, setting the class sizes themselves and overriding the panel’s recommendation that average class size be left to the discretion of the superintendent and individual principals.

In the future, class sizes will be limited to an average of 16-18 students for grades k-two, 18-20 students for grades three-four, and 20-22 students for grades five-12.

By setting class-size limits, the board opened the possibility of forcing out-of-district students to leave Aspen schools. It adopted the panel’s recommendation that if overcrowding occurs, priority should 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.

The board emphasized that forcing students out of Aspen schools was an “unlikely event” and that students would never be asked to leave in the middle of the year.

Children of district employees who reside outside the district will be considered in-district and, should there be openings in a particular grade, out-of-district students will continue to be admitted.

In direct contradiction with the panel’s recommendations, however, the board decided to eliminate a long-standing policy that gave priority to entering out-of-district students who have in-district siblings. Entering out-of-district students, the bulk of whom are kindergartners, will now have to enter a lottery if there are more applicants than there are spaces.

Concerned that the board was acting in contradiction to the task force, which spent nearly a year researching the subject, school board member Alice Davis asked her colleagues, “Do you not have a problem that the task force spent all this time and we are acting against its recommendation?”

“We are deciding on this because it’s our job,” Seigle responded.

The board passed the motion 3-2, with Davis and Seigle voting against.