Facing the need to cut Riverside-Brookfield High School’s budget next year, the District 208 school board has approved a new policy to limit the number of class sections at Riverside-Brookfield High School taken by only a small number of students.
Next year there must be at least 20 students who have registered in a regular education class section in order for that class to be held, unless the school board approves a waiver.
“We need to make sure that we are spending our money wisely,” said District 208 school board president Matt Sinde. “We want to make sure that we are not having classes that are too small.”
The new policy was unanimously approved by the school board in November.
During the 2011-12 school year, 19 classes are being offered that would have had to go to the board for approval if the new policy had been in place this year, according to data provided by Principal Pamela Bylsma.
The courses include three sections of advanced reading designed for below-grade-level readers, two of which have 17 students each and another which has 19 students.
Other classes with enrollments of less than 20 this year include four sections of freshman extended-period algebra, which is designed for at-risk math students. This year three sections have 15 students and another section has 11 students.
Bylsma said that sections of classes like those, designed for at-risk learners, would probably be combined, although the school would try to avoid creating sections with too many students.
“You try to do as much as you can with combining as long as it’s ethical,” Bylsma said. “You run them at higher numbers, which could impact student outcomes or you’re going to turn to other interventions.”
German language instruction could be affected by the new policy. German II currently has an enrollment of 11 students, and only 17 students are signed up for a combined class of Honors German III and IV and Advanced Placement German.
However, Bylsma said there’s been no decision to drop German from the curriculum, and that the low enrollment in German II could just be an aberration. There are 28 students in German I this year.
“We would expect German II to be larger next year, just because of how many kids are in German I this year,” Bylsma said. “There’s not been a decision to eliminate a particular language.”
Other classes affected could include some TV production and broadcasting classes, two dance classes, three music classes, including Advanced Placement Music Theory and Honors Jazz Ensemble, and a Hospitality and Foods class.
Thirteen other classes offered this year at RBHS have enrollments of less than 20 students, but they would not necessarily be affected by the new policy, because 20 or more students signed up for the classes at the time of registration.
Special education classes and English as a Second Language classes will not be affected by the new policy.
The focus on eliminating classes with small enrollments comes as the school board looks to cut $1.5 million to $2 million from next year’s budget. This year RB is running a $900,000 operating deficit.
Not offering classes with less than 20 students will probably result in fewer classes being offered at RB and could result in the layoffs of some teachers and a reduced teacher count.
“We anticipate that the new policy could have an impact on the courses RBHS offers and, therefore, on staffing,” Bylsma wrote in an email. “It might mean that courses with fewer than 20 students registering won’t run one year but will have enough students enroll to run the class the following year.”
Bylsma said that it is too soon to say what will be the exact impact on course offerings at RBHS next year, because the course registration process at the school for next year is not yet complete.
“We will not be sure of what the impact will be until we see the course selection numbers come in,” Bylsma wrote. “We will have a clearer picture of that in early February.”