Sept. 26, 2013
By Tara Cavanaugh
The Oct. 2 Count Day is coming soon, and AAPS administration is keeping a close eye on enrollment and class sizes.
Administrators presented a detailed account of student numbers last week at a Board of Education study session at Skyline and also updated numbers at a regular BOE meeting Sept. 25.
The numbers haven’t changed too much in the past week, said AAPS Director of Student Accounting and Research Jane Landefeld.
The district now registers a net loss of 216 students since last year; last week the count was at 210.
The good news is that some of the higher-enrolled high school classes are leveling out. There are now no high school core classes with 40 students.
Overall, 81 percent of high school classes have 33 or less students; last week it was 77 percent. Secondary class sizes are reviewed by the district when they exceed 33 students.
Middle school class sizes have hardly budged since last week. About 95 percent of classes have 33 students or less; last week it was 94 percent.
Elementary school class sizes are largely the same as well since last week. The district counts one more split class (due to accounting error, from 17 to 18 classes), two more kindergarten classes with more than 23 students (from seven to nine classes), the same number of classes with 26 or less students (220 classes), four more classes with 27-29 students (from 60 to 64 classes), and one more class with more than 30 (from 6 to 7 classes; six are fifth grade classes and one is a third grade class).
The district reviews elementary class sizes when they exceed 23 in kindergarten, 28 in grades 1 and 2, and 30 in grades 3-5. Overall, 94 percent of classes are at levels deemed acceptable by the district.
The district addresses large class sizes by adding teacher assistants, adding online learning options and providing professional development for teachers who are teaching split classes.
Although the numbers haven’t changed too much since last week, board trustees said they wished class sizes were smaller overall.
“These numbers aren’t surprising me,” said trustee Christine Stead. “Our public schools have been under attack.”
AAPS has lost $43 million in state funding over the past five years (including the 2013-2014 school year).
“We eliminated 43 teaching positions (last year),” said trustee Andy Thomas. “When you eliminate 43 teaching positions it will inevitably have an effect on class size.”
Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift, attending her first official BOE meeting, shared additional budget constraints that she is implementing in anticipation of the revenue loss resulting from the 216-student drop in enrollment.
Two positions will be eliminated: the supervisor of environmental services and the coordinator of literacy programs. The former supervisor of environmental services was Tim Gruszczynski, who is now the executive director of physical properties. The former coordinator of literacy programs was Chuck Hatt, who became Burns Park’s new principal this year.
In addition, Dr. Swift is also: implementing a restriction in the use and limit of purchasing cards; mandating that all out-of-state travel be approved by the superintendent; requiring that hiring for new and vacant positions must be approved by the superintendent; requiring that overtime and part-time and hourly work must also be pre-approved.
Count Day is Wednesday, Oct. 2. Students must be enrolled and present to be counted. A student with an excused absence has another 30 days to be included in the official count; a student with an unexcused absence has another 10 days.
My grandson attends Thurston Elementary. His first grade class has 28 students. Last year Thurston had four kindergarten classes which are now compacted into three first grade classes. The class is too large and the students will suffer. My daughter and her husband will work at home with my grandson to see that he gets the education that he needs. What about those students who don’t get that help. Ann Arbor is not exceptional. Major financial mistakes have been made in the past and we are now paying for them. Sorry to see this happen.