Local elementary and middle school students could see changes in their class size and possibly re-drawn school boundaries as Mountain View Whisman School District trustees and administrators reevaluate their policies as a Basic Aid district.
While revising policies like these happens every year, rising enrollment and the district's Basic Aid status -- where funding is based largely on property taxes regardless of the number of students -- are shaking things up.
On top of this, the district faces steep cuts by the state -- over $1 million this year, with more on the way. At a district study session on Thursday, Sept. 17, chief financial officer Craig Goldman told the board they should revise policies keeping in mind that cuts will likely continue for the next three to five years.
During the session, trustees and administrators, speaking before a small group of teachers, parents and members of the public, gave their preferences for how they would like to see policies change.
As for enrollment, especially in the younger grades, Goldman suggested one option might be to increase class sizes from kindergarten to third grade. In the past, state funding has helped with class size reduction, but considering the current circumstances, that may need to change, he said.
"I begin to buckle at more than 25 kids in K-3," said trustee Steve Olson. "I think it'd be a shame if we had to cross that threshold."
"My wish and planning would be is we keep class sizes as small as we can, given what comes down the pipe," said trustee Fiona Walter. She added that a physical library and computer lab must be "mandatory" at each campus, though art programming is more flexible because it doesn't require a specific classroom space.
As for redrawing school boundaries, trustees stayed committed to keeping schools diverse. Trustee Ellen Wheeler emphasized that education research says underserved students do better when surrounded by high achieving peers -- one reason so many children from the Castro neighborhood are currently bussed to other parts of the district.
Trustees discussed their wishes to honor inter-district transfers for families that already have a student attending school in the district, especially children in the Dual Immersion or Parent Child Teacher programs. They agreed that because of Basic Aid status, however, accepting new transfers will likely be off the table.
The district's Independent Study Program, which offers curricula and instructional help to families wishing to home school their children, could face termination due to the fact that, of the 50 participants in the program, only 15 live within district boundaries. If the bulk of students are cut from the program because of budget restraints and Basic Aid status, administrators said, it may not be fiscally possible to run the program for only a handful of students.
The administration will take the ideas from Thursday's study session and draw up initial proposals to be presented at the regular board meeting on Oct. 1.