Letter to the Editor: On the Question of Small Class Size – An Open Letter to the Los Alamos Community

On the Question of Small Class Size – An Open Letter to the Los Alamos Community
Dr. Eugene (Gene) Schmidt
Superintendent, Los Alamos Public Schools

Small class sizes are a quality and hallmark that Los Alamos has long valued. Community conversations and strategic plan surveys continually reinforce the importance of maintaining small class sizes. Over the past several years budget constraints have made it increasingly more difficult to honor our community’s desire for small class size. Significant reductions in state funding this past spring created a two million dollar shortfall in our school budget, which had a direct bearing on the decision to increase class size.

School administration and the School Board recognize small class size is important to our community. Efforts were made to preserve this value by reducing and/or eliminating budget items to preserve small class sizes. Despite these efforts, reductions in teaching staff were still necessary to bring the budget into balance. Reductions of seven elementary teaching positions through attrition were made during the budget building process this past spring.

The reduction in staffing resulted in larger class sizes in the second grade at Aspen, Mountain, and Barranca elementary schools. Second grade class sizes at these schools range from a low of 24 at Aspen and Barranca to a high of 27 at Mountain.

Decisions about increasing elementary class sizes are not made lightly. Decisions, like this, are difficult because the educational well-being of every child is important. As this school year began, district administrators placed additional Instructional Assistants in classrooms in an effort to minimize the impact of larger class sizes. Administration will also explore teacher interest in professional development strategies that address student needs in a larger class setting.

Class size is important to our community. As such, I am interested in your perspectives and possible solutions. It is important for the community to know that even as these conversations are underway, district administrators continue to implement strategies to address our current class sizes. Should you have a comment or suggestion, please call me at the district office (663-2230) or email me at e.schmidt@laschools.net .

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