Bunsold Middle School (BMS) officials recently weighed in on how the school will prepare for its future enrollment numbers.
Even though data provided by BMS shows an increase in student population and a decrease in teaching staff, BMS Principal Michelle Kaffenbarger said the number of students attending the middle school has been fairly consistent over the years, and will most likely stay leveled out. With an average of 27 students for each classroom, she said that’s not “abnormally large.”
“(The numbers) have been pretty steady in that average class size based upon our master schedule, number of periods teachers teach and the number of things we offer here,” Kaffenbarger said. “It’s pretty much been the status quo.”
Kaffenbarger said having 27 children in a classroom is “within a range that works for our learners,” and “we work to create class sizes that best support the needs of the learners.” She said those are adjusted based on student needs and their course selections.
She said decisions to hire or not replace staff members are “based on need,” which could be in response to the student population or a “huge fluctuation in enrollment.”
She explained that number can fluctuate because of teachers’ planning periods and student course selections. Since all teachers have to take time during the day to plan their lessons or attend conferences, those students they would have taught during those periods would go to other teachers during those times.
“That’s the average, but just know, that doesn’t mean every class, all the time, has 27 students in it,” Kaffenbarger said.
She said there are “a lot of other factors that would have to come into play” to determine if there is a number or average of students in a classroom that becomes detrimental to education. She noted the number is difficult to pinpoint because of the types of learners in the classroom, how students’ needs are being met and the room’s size.
She said there have been retirements in the past that could contribute to that staff fluctuation. However, she said other teachers can be directed to teach new classes.
“Sometimes those retirements have shifted,” she said.” There may have been a need to use that person in a different way.”
When asked if an example of 35 students in a classroom, or as an average in each classroom, would start to become detrimental, she said the BMS academic team tries to prevent that from happening.
If it were to happen, she said “it’s not a simple answer,” and “a lot of different variables come into play.” She said her team would “review data” and see what classes look like. For that example, she said there are many factors to consider, such as if a class is being taught by two teachers.
When asked if there’s an average number of students in a classroom BMS officials consider to be too much, BMS Assistant Principal Heidi LoParo said she believes there are “too many factors” to consider.
Within the data provided, Kaffenbarger said the fluctuation in staff numbers has been based on need and decreased by a master schedule change. She said an example of this has been changing the number of lunch periods from three to four.
“It’s better for our kids to reduce the number of students in the cafeteria at one time,” Kaffenbarger said. “A year from now, that could change, and we could go back to three.”
To prepare for the future, she said BMS plans for enrollment by studying the numbers of students in the elementary school, which has “leveled out.”
Kaffenbarger said choir and band are “going to be more than 27 students” attending. However, nearly every other class, such as core classes, will most likely have close to 27 students in them.
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