Enrollment and class sizes up in Ogden School District

Oct 9 2013 - 5:17pm

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OGDEN -- Enrollment is up in the Ogden School District, and some classes have as many as 45 students, Superintendent Brad Smith told board members.

"On the secondary level, there are some class sizes that are large, some that are predictable and desirable, for example we have some P.E. classes that have 45 students in them," Smith told school board members at a recent work session. "I believe that is exactly what we would expect to have happen in a P.E. class.  We have some art classes that are quite large, then we have a few sections, particularly in the junior highs, of core classes that are large, in the neighborhood of 35 or so. We are looking at those."
Smith's report followed a Sept. 19 school board meeting at which Kim Irvine, Weber County Democratic Education Caucus chairwoman, spoke of concerns about district class sizes of 38 to 45 in core classes.

Smith said at the work session that some district junior highs made the decision to increase math offerings.

"Increasing that means something else has got to give, so that's at least one reason, I believe, we are seeing somewhat larger classes in some elective classes, but again, that's what we would expect to see in elective classes, generally."

Smith said each summer, the district uses available information to try to predict the number of students who will enroll. Honing in on a number is difficult, in part, because of incoming kindergartners who have no history with the district, and because of students who move in and out of the area and don't immediately alert school officials. The unexpectedly high number of kindergartners at one school had sparked teacher transfers, Smith said.

As of Oct. 1, enrollment was up by 171 students over the Ogden School District's predictions, Smith reported. Oct. 1 enrollment was 12,486.

"We are above projection by almost 200 students, and that's great," Smith said. "Two hundred out of 12,000 is the closest we have been in some time, and suggests we have a pretty good handle on things."

The number of students determines the number of full time employees, FTEs, the district can employ, Smith said.

But the category of employees hired is, in large part, determined by individual principals, Smith said.

"A principal could decide that rather than having a half-time counselor, they're going to employ a full-time counselor. A principal could decide they're going to have two instructional coaches, and there's any number of other, similar adjustments, and particularly when you're talking about secondary, there are literally a whole plethora of different places one could spend an FTE on different things."

Adding a counselor or custodian would not decrease the number of students in a core-subject class, Smith said.

"The discussion has been that we may need to allocate a few FTE to junior highs," Smith said. "We will analyze that. There's no good time to do that. It's not good to do it right now, but if we need to do that, it will be done on semester break when it can be done with the least amount of disruption."

School board president Shane Story asked if language arts teaching positions were decreased at Ogden High School, and principal Stacey Briggs, in attendance, said the school had, in fact, added one half-time position in that area. The position went to a half-time dance teacher, resulting in her full-time employment, Briggs said.

Story requested a report on numbers of students in individual district classes. Smith said such a report was in the works, but was not complete as of last week. The report still is not complete, district spokesman Zachary Williams said Wednesday.

Contact reporter Nancy Van Valkenburg at 801-625-4275 or nvan@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @S_ENancyVanV.

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