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D-302 approves additional staff to maintain student-to-teacher ratio

MAPLE PARK – A common concern for parents who have children in school is class size.

Most research has shown that students in smaller classes perform better when compared with their peers who attend larger classes.

Will their child get the attention they need? Will their teacher be so overwhelmed because he or she is trying to attend to the needs of too many students?

While class size alone isn’t the only thing that will ensure a good education, it’s a key factor; class size was addressed Aug. 14 at the Kaneland School District 302 Board of Education meeting because of a rise in students at the second-grade level at John Shields Elementary School.

“We had been monitoring enrollment in the spring to the summer and into the fall, and you hope that it works out with the numbers,” said Todd Leden, superintendent for District 302. “It doesn’t always work out, though, and the numbers took a bump at the last minute at John Shields.”

There will be 84 students in second grade at John Shields this fall, which results in a student-teacher ratio of 28:1.

The Kaneland Education Association recommends a class size of 22 students for a second-grade classroom.

“We were at a 27:1 ratio at the end of May and were monitoring it on a weekly basis,” Chris Adkins, director of human resources for District 302, said. “We got four more students in the last week so that moved us to 28:1, which is unacceptable, and 27:1 was already unacceptable. We waited through summer to see what would happen and have made a calculated decision to approve additional staff.”

Board members approved an additional 0.67 full-time equivalency that will be combined with an existing, reallocated 0.33 full-time equivalency from the high school to create a full-time teacher position to keep the student-to-teacher at a far more respectable number of 21:1.

Adkins explained that student class numbers often fluctuate at last minute because families who move out of the district rarely, if ever, let the district know they are leaving, although new families, who are relocating here, often do.

“Families are good at letting us know when they move in,” Adkins said. “They’re not as efficient when they just go, and we may not be aware that they left.”

Whether or not this becomes a trend in future school years remains unknown, but it’s something Adkins said he will continue to monitor from kindergarten and up.

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