Archive for Thursday, August 21, 2003

Added teachers would shrink elementary class sizes

August 21, 2003

Eudora could likely get an additional kindergarten and third-grade teacher if enrollments come in as projected.
The Eudora USD 491 budget includes the caveat that new teachers would be added if kindergarten had more than 100 students or the third grade had more than 105 students. Superintendent Marty Kobza said the district expected 116 third-graders. That would put about 24 students in the grade's current five units. An additional teacher would lower class sizes to 19 to 20 students, keeping the Board's student-to-teacher ratio goal.
But, Kobza said, 20 students per class were a lot of kindergartners. With 100 or more students, adding another afternoon section of kindergarten would keep those numbers lower.
"Class size is always important, but the older students get, the more you can deal with a larger number of students," Kobza said.
Even though the official head count isn't taken until late September, Kobza said, the district would base its decision on how many students showed up in the seats at the start of school, which began its first full day Thursday.
The district would know by Friday what it would have to do, he said, but students wouldn't be assigned to and moved into their new classes until after Labor Day.
"I know that's awkward, but we want to make sure it's a good decision," Kobza said. "That's when you really get rolling anyway."
Moreover, he said, for the first few days of school students were doing the same activities in the classroom anyway, regardless of which teacher they had. Both Eudora West and Nottingham elementary schools have classroom space for additional sections, and adding those sections will be made easier because the district already has qualified teachers working as paraprofessionals who can be bumped up into teaching positions right away. Hiring certified teachers as paras was an intentional move, Kobza said.
"We knew we could put them in a full-time teaching spot and feel good about it," he said.
Unofficial estimates predict a full-time enrollment of 1,233 students in the district. Full-time enrollment accounts for each student in the district, taking into account how many hours a day a student is in school. For instance, kindergartners counts as half a student in FTE counts.
If the estimate was close, Kobza said the district could expect $293,000 additional dollars from the state to compliment additional state money Eudora will receive by way of facilities weighting for the new high school building.
"It gives us room to possibly do some stuff with the third grade and kindergarten," Kobza said.
The state's property tax acceleration has thrown a monkey wrench in this year's district budget. Because property taxes will be due in May instead of June, Kobza said the district would be getting a third more money in taxes this year than it usually does.
"It doesn't mean we'll see any more money," he said. "We can't spend any more. We can't collect any more than we're already collecting."
If the district made the mill levy about 58, which it had anticipated doing earlier, the mill levy would spike in subsequent years. By lowering it to 64 from last year's 66, Kobza said, taxpayers would have a smoother transition.
"They can plan without having to be put in a difficult situation," he said.
The budget also allows $12,500 for the school's libraries, and increased money spent on food services and summer school.

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