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June 25, 2014

Interim Superintendent initiates class size work group

At the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, June 24, Interim Superintendent John Yagielski announced the formation of a work group that will consider improvements in how the district manages elementary class sizes and balances teams at the middle school level.

The work group is expected to hold its first meeting on July 10 and deliver its ideas in phases, from late summer through October. The panel will include one parent from each district elementary school, two elementary principals, and one middle school principal, along with the district registrar and transportation dispatcher.

At the elementary level, the work group is charged with reviewing and clearly documenting elementary class size targets, safety margins, and procedures. The group is asked to take a two-tiered approach to its elementary-level work, beginning first with a look at instances in which the size of a class exceeds the district's target for the coming school year.
One idea the group will consider for the coming year is the feasibility giving parents a choice to have their child placed in a class in another elementary school, without district transportation.

The second, broader tier of elementary-level work will involve ideas for possible implementation beginning in 2015-16.The group is asked to consider if there are changes to the elementary boundaries that could help manage class sizes and better balance school enrollments.
It will also investigate the idea of "swing zones," which are generally understood as a policy of identifying specific geographic areas for which there is some flexibility in the school of attendance. However, part of the work group's charge would be to establish a clear description of swing zones and how they could be implemented in Niskayuna.

The committee is asked to outline a phased-in approach for any recommended changes to elementary boundaries so that the impact on current students and families is minimized. The group is expected to report back on all of its elementary work by October.

Finally, by November, the panel will report back on its ideas for balancing middle school teams to avoid or minimize split teams, according to the timeline laid out by the interim superintendent.
The work group has a much narrower charge than last year's Facilities Utilization Advisory Committee, a process through which class size and balancing enrollments were also discussed. This group will be looking at these issues within all current schools and grade-level configurations.

"As I have introduced myself across the district, it has become clear that the issue of class size is on the minds of many, and it's important to be responsive to the concerns of our community," Yageiski said. "This work group is an effort to explore improvements in our approach to class size management, including pursuing reasonable equity across our schools and maximum clarity and consistency in how we approach the issue."