Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis will look to hire more teachers next year in an attempt to lower class sizes in sophomore core subjects. The move would allow the school to drop class sizes from 30 students per class to 25 students.
Currently, only freshman core classes are staffed at the goal of 25 students, plus or minus two, per class.
At the Nov. 11 school board meeting, Skinkis presented two proposals. His preferred alternative is hiring an additional 1.8 full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers, which he said would allow the school to offer all freshman and sophomore math and English classes at the goal of 25 students.
Such a move would is projected to result in an operating deficit of about $20,000 next year. A more modest addition of 0.7 FTE to the teaching ranks would allow the school to offer all regular, but not honors, sophomore English and math classes at the 25 students per class goal.
Large class sizes at RBHS have been a concern among teachers and parents have since the defeat of an operating fund referendum in 2011.
“Sure, everybody would like to see the cap be 25 or 24 and our teachers want to get that and eventually, someday, we would like to get there,” Skinkis said.
Current class size goals are 25 students per class in lab classes, 30 students for non-lab classes and 40 students in fine arts and physical education classes.
Skinkis said he has been slowly trying to lower class sizes while remaining fiscally responsible.
“We’d love to see this move a lot faster, but I’m trying to show everybody, even the community, that we’re moving at a snail’s pace, but we are chipping away at lowering class sizes and trying to get them all under 30 and trying to get something that is more manageable and more effective for instruction,” Skinkis said.
This year, seven of the eight sections of freshman biology are larger than the class size policy, with five of the sections having 28 students and two of the sections with 29 students. Two of the nine sections of freshman English are also over the caps with 28 students.
RBHS Interim Principal Kristin Smetana attributed the large biology classes to an unusually large number of freshmen this year who did not attend district feeder schools.
Two of the nine sections of freshman English are also over the caps with 28 students.
Other classes over class-size caps include two sections of freshman algebra, with 28 students each, and one section of extended algebra, a class designed for students needing a little extra help, also at 28 students.
According to data provided by the district, the only other classes over the class-size goals are three of nine sections of freshman physical education. Two of those sections have 47 students each and one has 43. The average class size in all PE classes at RBHS is 39.98.
According to RB documents, the overall average class size at the school is 27.86. The average class size in fine arts classes, which include large classes such as band and choir, is 38.57.
Non-special education classes with fewer than 20 students typically need school board approval. This year the board approved offering Advance Placement music theory, because the class was not offered last year. Only nine students are taking the class. The teacher, Diane Marelli, agreed to teach just one section of choir, a very large class, to balance the small music theory class.
Twelve students each take the two advanced automotive classes, while 12 students take the combined German III and AP German class. Thirteen students are enrolled in AP French and AP Spanish literature, while 18 are enrolled in a section of SEE Team English.
Four classes with fewer than 20 students are running without board approval, because more than 20 students originally signed up for the class.
“The Board of Education and district are committed to addressing class sizes in core academic classes at all grade levels,” Skinkis said. “The addition of sophomore classes is another step in the right direction. The staffing of core classes will continue to be a priority going forward.”