The Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education has voted unanimously to change its class-size policy to eliminate specific size targets for the district’s classrooms. 

As it indicated it would do last month, the board on Sept. 18 ditched class-size limits, which have been routinely waived for many classrooms in recent years, in favor of a more general policy.

The new policy states the district will “establish class sizes to meet the instructional needs of all students, while also considering practical space constraints and also exercising prudent financial management.”

The new policy also says that the superintendent will work with administrators to establish class sizes in each school “based on student needs, student/performance abilities grade levels, subject areas, and space availability.”

The new policy replaces one that had called for classes to have no more than 20 students in kindergarten through third grade, 23 students in fourth and fifth grades and 26 in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.

At the start of the 2019-20 school year, 26 of the 41 elementary school classrooms in District 96 exceeded those recommended limits and received waivers approved by the school board. Board members say that the new policy better conforms to what has been the actual practice in District 96.

“We’ve had this policy in place for a long time, we’ve constantly been waiving it year after year … so I think the idea was to more accurately reflect reality,” said school board President Dan Hunt.

Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye and school board members said the new policy gives the administration more flexibility and say that there is no plan to increase class sizes in the district.

“We don’t anticipate class sizes increasing as result of the change of the policy,” Ryan-Toye said. “We just believe our updated policy is a better indicator of our practices, but our intentions remain to have relatively low class sizes and we intend to keep class sizes in our current ranges.”

The new policy also calls for the superintendent to provide the school board with public updates about class sizes at board meetings twice a year and to provide regular monthly written reports on class sizes and student enrollment, particularly during the summer and at the beginning of the school year, so the board can closely monitor class size.

Other aspects of student assignments will remain the same. The district will try to assign a student to a school that is close to home, subject to the school’s capacity. Students will not have the absolute right to attend the school that is closest to their home.  

Once a student is assigned to a school for kindergarten, that student will have the right to stay in that school through fifth grade, and siblings will be assigned to the same school unless otherwise requested by their parents.