A group of Rosehill Elementary parents are asking the district to consider lowering the cap for class sizes at Title 1 schools in hopes of providing a more stable and productive classroom environment for students in buildings that serve economically disadvantaged populations.
Megan Peters, a Rosehill Elementary parent, addressed the board of education at its meeting this week with concerns about the prospect of the school losing three classes next year. With 520 students enrolled at the school, Rosehill is among the largest elementaries in the district. It also serves an economically disadvantaged population, with nearly 60 percent of students qualifying for free-and-reduced lunch programs. What’s more, more than 25% of current students qualify as English language learners.
Peters noted that accurately predicting student enrollment from year to year in such neighborhoods can be difficult.
“With poverty comes increased mobility, so often when the district is planning class sections at Rosehill, we do not know what that number will actually look like of students enrolled the next year,” she said.
Because forecasting for actual enrollment can be so difficult, the building has been forced to add class sections right before the start of the school year — or even in the middle of the school year — when numbers exceed predictions.
“Six times in the last ten school years, Rosehill has had to add a section at the last minute or after the school year has begun, which is extremely disruptive to teachers and students,” Peters said.
With the proposed reduction of sections at Rosehill next year, each grade level would already be at capacity. Peters and her allies fear that it’s likely the school will again need to scramble to add sections once more students enroll.
“Full capacity means something different in a school with 57% poverty,” Peters said. “The classroom challenges our teachers face are unique. And while having a classroom of 24 5 year old kindergarteners is always a challenge for any teacher, the difficulty is multiplied when taking into account the difficulties our students face.”
The group is proposing that the district consider setting a classroom size cap for Title 1 schools that is two students lower than the cap at non-Title 1 schools. Peters noted that such a policy is already in place at Olathe Public Schools. She said that the group had calculated the cost to the district would be less than $900,000 per year.
Superintendent Mike Fulton told Peters and the group that he planned to follow up with them on the proposal.