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Class sizes for Janesville middle, high schools could expand under plan

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
November 19, 2011
— Some Janesville public school students would find themselves in bigger classes if the school board approves a proposal from the district administration.

The proposal calls for the maximum class size in the middle and high schools to increase from 30 to 32 starting in September 2012.


The school board will hear a presentation and could vote on the change when it meets Tuesday night at Parker High School.


Steve Sperry, director of administrative and human services, recommends keeping maximum class sizes in the elementary schools the same: 25 in kindergarten through third grade and 30 in grades 4 and 5.


The move is part of the administration’s ongoing efforts to rein in spending for what is expected to be a difficult budget year.


The change is projected to reduce staff by the full-time equivalent of two teachers, saving about $140,000, Sperry wrote in the memo.


Superintendent Karen Schulte said Friday that the true fiscal impact won’t be known until officials have a better idea of enrollments and after students make their 2012-13 course selections in January.


The board is expected to face a multimillion-dollar budget hole in 2012-13. The administration has not announced plans for balancing the budget. Schulte said she wants to avoid a repeat of last year, when budget cutting dragged over many months.


“I don’t anticipate that kind of process” in 2012, Schulte said, adding that she needs to “strategize” with board President Bill Sodemann and Greg Ardrey, chairman of the finance committee, on how to announce budget changes.


Asked if layoffs are coming, Schulte said “there may be some,” but not as many as last year, when the district cut 110 jobs, including some through retirements and resignations.


“Of course, that’s up to the board to decide,” Schulte said.


Schulte said the administration will look for “other ways” to balance the budget, but she would not say what those will be.


The administration is in the early stages of analyzing the budget, Schulte said.


The new class-size policies would have exemptions for classrooms that can’t accommodate more students, such as computer or welding labs where the number of stations is limited, according to a memo by Sperry, who developed the plan.


Changing the middle school class size involves changing a board policy, and that requires two readings, so the board could not vote on it until its Dec. 13 meeting, Sperry wrote.


The change at the high school level would mean changing an administrative regulation and could be done with a vote as early as Tuesday, Sperry indicated.


If you go

The Janesville School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Room 1145, Parker High School, 3125 Mineral Point Ave. The agenda includes:


-- A closed session to discuss a possible offer to the district’s three employee unions that would involve reopening their contracts. The board has made several offers in the past, trying to get the unions to make financial concessions. The unions have rejected them.


-- A proposal to convert the manager of information technology position to a chief information officer. The position has been vacant for more than four months, and officials have not found a satisfactory substitute. The new position would have more responsibilities and would be paid $100,000 to $125,000.


-- Possibly a presentation on transition to a statewide teacher-evaluation system that will be required starting in fall 2014.



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