Many classrooms are over normal student/teacher ratio

Bigger class sizes at Del Norte High School have prompted district officials to explore adding extra sections and rejiggering student and teacher schedules.

The School Board expressed concern Thursday when members learned that some classes at the high school currently have as many as 45 students.

But Principal Coleen Parker said the high numbers aren't unusual for the beginning of the school year. Class sizes traditionally decrease due to kids going to other school sites, she said.

"This is an ongoing issue with us," Parker said. "Yes, the classes start out very high, but we don't end that way."

Under the contract between the district and the Del Norte Teachers Association, the preferred ratio of students to teachers in one classroom for grades four through 12 is no more than 35-to-one, Superintendent Don Olson said. But class sizes at the high school currently range from about 40 students in its two Spanish classes to as many as 45 students in its pre-calculus classes, he said.

The school's U.S. government and economics classes, as well as its upper-level algebra sections, currently hold about 40 students, Olson said.

Addressing the issue won't be easy, either, Olson said.

"We don't have the exact answer," he told the School Board.

Even though the preferred student/teacher ratio is no more than 35:1, the high school has a hard enrollment cap of 40 students, Parker said. Classroom enrollment can exceed that amount with teacher agreement, she said.

The high class size for pre-calculus is unusual, but the school has attempted to solve the problem by moving the classes into a room that seats 50 people, Parker said. A third pre-calculus class will also be added to help balance out the number of students, but that will result in moving around students' schedules, she said.

"The issues it poses are not just about moving kids in one class, but it affects the other five classes the student takes," Parker said. "It's going to mess around with their schedule largely. Some kids won't want to do it, they would rather have the larger math classes."

Adding an extra class may also result in having one class with only 18 students and another with 35-40 students, Parker said.

Planning for class sizes is difficult, partly because high school students are still enrolling on the first day of school, Parker said. This year, about 20 students enrolled on the first day, while 12 decided to go to other schools, she said.

"It's a Del Norte County oddity," she said. "This doesn't happen in other places. It's very odd to have a kid show up the first day of school to enroll."

Del Norte County is one of the few remaining school districts in the state to start school after Labor Day, Parker added.

On Thursday, Bridget Holland, a high school English and art teacher, said she currently has 39 students in her senior English class. Her juniors honors English class and drawing class have 37 and 38 students, she said.

"I'd like to drop it down," Holland told the School Board.

Board member Lori Cowan, who has two children in pre-calculus, said she contacted the district with her concerns.

"They're not getting the help they need (by) sitting in a classroom with not enough chairs," she said. "Why send them to that class? I could just send them to Warrior OT."

Warrior OT stands for Warrior Overtime, the school's tutoring program.

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