Enrollment is up substantially this fall at local elementary and middle schools. Officials speculate that the marked -- and unanticipated -- rise is due, in part, to an influx of military families moving into Moffett Field housing, as well as fewer fifth-graders than usual leaving the district.
The Mountain View Whisman district has 170 more students than it did last year, about three times more than expected, according to Stephanie Totter, assistant superintendent. The district had anticipated an additional 40 to 60 students, Totter said.
This year 222 students from military families will attend local schools.
Rebecca Murga, a representative of the 63rd Regional Support Command at Moffett Field, said she was not permitted to give exact numbers of military families living on base or in other military housing.
However, Murga said, the 63rd is a relatively new. It was created in September 2008 when two smaller commands merged and the command's headquarters was moved to Moffett Field.
Totter said that the elementary schools may have been able to absorb the growth better than the middle schools because the district recently increased its student-teacher ratio in kindergarten, first-, second- and third-grade classrooms. This year, in an effort to address budgetary issues, it rose from 20-1 to 25-1.
Yet, because of the unexpected growth, classrooms across the district have exceeded even those increased target ratios.
For teachers, Totter said, that means a bit more planning will be required. For students, it means they may get less one-on-one time with instructors.
It's not a cause for alarm, Totter said. Most of the district's bigger classes are only two or three students over their target student-teacher ratio.
"For some students there may not be a negative or a positive impact," Totter said, noting that some might say the larger the class, the lower the chance that individual students' needs will be met. "There is some research that suggests a smaller class size doesn't necessarily guarantee success of every child."
So far this year, the district has hired two new full time elementary teachers -- one at Huff and a dual immersion instructor at Castro. At Crittenden and Graham, administrators have worked to rearrange the master schedules to ensure students are spread as evenly as possible throughout the schools. That way, Totter said, if there is a class that exceeds its targeted student-teacher ratio, it won't be by much.
Next year, she said, the district expects to hire more middle school instructors to keep up with the growing student body.