The Riverside Elementary District 96 school board has decided to build a small “bump out” at L.J. Hauser Junior High School which will contain two new classrooms. The plan is an attempt to deal with large class sizes at Hauser. The “bump out” will be part of $24.5 million in renovations at District 96 schools and will be constructed next summer. It will be located just south of the auditorium in a small area of open space between Hauser and Central School.
The district will also be moving its central offices back to the Central School-Hauser campus in the 2013-2014 school year after being located out of district at the former Mater Christi School in North Riverside since the summer of 2008. Moving the offices back to District 96 property will save the district just over $24,000 in annual rent that it is currently paying.
Hauser will gain a third additional classroom when a computer lab is converted to a regular classroom next year because by then all Hauser students will have their own District 96 provided Apple Mac Book in the district’s one-to-one computer program. As a result, the computer lab will no longer be needed.
Other changes at Hauser will include moving the school office closer to the main entrance for better security. The orchestra room will be split into two classrooms as part of the reconfiguration of the first floor. A new location for the orchestra room has yet to be determined. The orchestra may have to use the band room in the basement.
The innards at Hauser will be extensively modernized and renovated as will be done at all District 96 schools.
The cost of the Hauser “bump out” will be $268,000 District 96 Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson said. But Lamberson said the net cost for the district will be only about $50,000 because previous plans called for spending $218,000 to covert the former district offices into regular classrooms. Currently the district office space is being used for keyboarding classes with desktop computers.
The net gain of three classrooms at Hauser will allow the school to add a section of classes to its team schedule and should result in lower class sizes in core classes.
“We can finally go to the equivalent of eight sections per grade level, eight sections of math, eight sections of English and science instead of our current seven sections and that’s important because of our high enrollment and increasing enrollment,” Lamberson said.
District 96 class size targets call for classes of 24 to 26 students in sixth through eighth grades, but currently many current core classes are larger than that in the sixth and seventh grades. Enrollment at Hauser is projected to increase 13 percent next year as the small eighth grade class graduates and is replaced by a large incoming sixth grade class.
Currently a whopping 37 classes at Hauser, almost all sixth and seventh grade core classes, have more than 26 students in a classroom with nine classes having at least 30 students crammed into the classroom according to a Hauser master schedule that District 96 provided to the Landmark. The school board’s education committee discussed the class size issue at Hauser at its Nov. 8 meeting.
“I think 32 kids in a 40-minute class is crazy,” said Jennifer Leimberer the chairperson of the Riverside District 96 School Board’s Education Committee.
Large classes are currently concentrated in the sixth and seventh grades at Hauser because those classes are significantly larger than the eighth grade class. There are currently 184 sixth graders at Hauser, 186 seventh graders and 137 eighth graders.
Matthew Muto’s seventh period seventh grade science class has 32 students in a classroom which has a stated capacity of 28 according to the Hauser master schedule. Science teacher Debra Potempa has two seventh grade science classes that are over capacity with 30 and 29 students in those two classes.
At the Education Committee meeting which about half the faculty at Hauser attended, Potempa said that it is hard to conduct and adequately supervise a science class of that size in 40 minutes, especially when doing experiments.
Leslie Berman, Hauser principal, says she believes the net gain of three classrooms and the addition of one section to the sixth and seventh grade should solve the class size problem, at least for the foreseeable future.
“This is very exciting,” Berman said. “We know we can make this work. We think we can manage quite well for a good long time.”
Next year the enrollment at Hauser is projected to be between 560 and 570 students up from the current enrollment of 507 students.
Lamberson said that he is confident that most Hauser classes next year will be hit the district’s class size target of 24 to 26 students in a class.
“I believe we will have a high probability of hitting that target,” Lamberson said. “Eighty percent of core classes will be within the target.”