Fewer small classes at RBHS next school year

Regular ed classes with fewer than 20 students cut from 19 to 9

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By Bob Skolnik

There will be fewer small classes at Riverside-Brookfield High School in 2012-13 as the school reduces its teaching force by the equivalent of 10.5 full-time positions. Under a school board policy adopted late last year, no class with fewer than 20 students will run unless the school board specifically votes to allow that class to run.

The RBHS administration has set a class size goal of 30 students per class for non-laboratory regular education classes, 26 students per class for lab classes and 40 students per class for music and physical education classes.

"The goal was to get a department average in line with those targets," said District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis.

Some important capstone classes will still be offered with enrollments of fewer than 20 students.

At its Feb. 14 meeting the District 208 Board of Education voted unanimously to approve nine classes, a total of 12 sections, to run next year with enrollments of fewer than 20 students.

This year 19 regular education classes have fewer than 20 students.

"The number of courses running with less than 20 students enrolled is down considerably from last year," Skinkis said. "The building administration and department chairs did a good job monitoring class sizes while preserving opportunities for the students."

School board member Tim Walsh praised the school's administration for winnowing down classes with fewer than 20 students.

"It's a significant improvement from what we have this year," Walsh said.

The board approved running the following classes next year with fewer than 20 students: a combined Advanced Auto I and II class, two sections of Introduction to TV, two sections of Advanced TV Production, Advanced Placement Music Theory, three sections of an extended period Algebra class geared toward vulnerable math students, AP Calculus B/C which is not being offered this year, AP Computer Science, two sections of AP Physics and an advanced German class which combines Honors German 3, AP German Language and Honors German 5.

Some other classes that RBHS is mandated by state or federal law to offer are also being run with fewer than 20 students. These classes include three English as a Second Language classes and 11 special education classes. Regulations in special education and other special need classes sometimes require class sizes of less than 20.

In the last public comment part of the meeting one RBHS student thanked the board for preserving the advanced German class that was approved to run with 16 students next year.

"I'm in AP German 4 right now and I will be in German 5 next year, so it's very important to me that that class stays around, because then I will be able to finish up my four years of a foreign language," said Katie Maxwell, a junior.

The board has given priority to so-called capstone classes, those classes that complete a student's study of a subject in high school. Capstone classes granted waivers from the board's minimum class size policy include Advanced Auto, Calculus B/C, AP Physics, AP Music Theory and the advanced German class.

Three classes offered this year will not be offered next year, including Family Relations, a class in human development from adolescence to adulthood; World Literature B, a survey of literature not written originally in English; and a teaching internship program where students were placed in elementary and middle schools for two periods a day to get an idea of what it is like to be a teacher and had to opportunity to teach lessons.

"We wanted to let every kid take every class they signed up for, but at some point in time we have to make a decision of do we want to allow a class to run with 10 students in it while we're trying to shove 30 students into an algebra course that's going to get kids ready for the ACT," Skinkis said.

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