Last spring, Frank Shaw, principal of Cottonwood Heights Elementary School, had carefully planned a 24-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio in his second-grade classes for the 1994-95 school year.
The ratio pleased everyone until 17 unexpected second-graders moved into the neighborhood.The additional students forced him to choose between moving an upper-grade teacher to second grade, increasing class size in all fifth and sixth grades to 34 students and creating two combination fifth-and-sixth-grade classes or increasing the average second-grade class size to 29.
Shaw met with teachers and parents to examine the new enrollment numbers. They decided for this school year to increase the size of the second-grade classrooms but look at other options for next year.
The increased class load prompted a parent to write the Deseret News complaining that the larger class load violates the ratio mandated by the Utah Legislature of 24 students in the primary grades, kindergarten through third grade.
"It is my contention that 7-year-olds deserve sufficient attention from their teachers to learn the curriculum necessary for success in later years. Competent school training is necessary to prepare youngsters to be knowledgable, productive citizens. . . . I feel it is the duty of the schools to obey the law, and it is not being done," the parent writes.
But some parents misunderstand what the Legislature has mandated regarding class size.
In the past four years, lawmakers have spent approximately $30 million in taxpayer dollars to reduce class sizes - particularly in the primary grades.
While the money has been earmarked by lawmakers to reduce class size, there isn't a mandated teacher-student ratio in the state. Many districts have established class-size policies, but there isn't a law regulating class size.
"In Jordan District, we have been given guidelines about keeping teacher-student ratios low, especially in the lower grades. But the district leaves it up to the schools to decide how to best use resources," said Shaw.
"Obviously, we are very concerned about class size and want the best situation for our students. But with the short notice of additional students this year, the PTA and our staff decided it would be best to keep all classes below 30 for now and plan for adjustments in the future."