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No lotteries, but larger classes possible

Submitted by on 1, February 11, 2010 – 6:00 amNo Comment

By Stacy Lawrence

To the relief of many a kindergarten parent, there will be no random drawings at any Alameda elementary school for student slots in the coming school year, Alameda Unified School District student services chief Jeff Knoth told The Island.

He said enrollment during the two-weeks of kindergarten round-up in January was “a little lower than we have had in the past.” This year’s district-wide kindergarten enrollment is 747 students.

Last year at this time, kindergarten lotteries were announced at Franklin, Edison, Otis and Bay Farm elementary schools. The district ended up adding a kindergarten class at each of those four schools due to the high level of over enrollment.

But the longstanding 20-to-1 kindergarten student-to-teacher ratio in Alameda seems likely to change, following a nationwide trend reversing the reductions in class size started in the 1990s. The higher class sizes are subject to negotiation with the district’s teacher’s union.

The working draft of the district’s master plan for Alameda schools through 2015 presents best- and worst-case scenarios. The final read of the master plan is planned for the February 23 school board meeting.

Under the best-case scenario, the district would raise K-3 student-teacher ratios to 24.5 to 1 and 35 to 1 for ninth grade. This plan counts on the passage of a parcel tax to replace the expiring Measures A and H as well as the implementation of other district cost-cutting measures.

The current K-3 student-teacher ratio is 20 to 1 in Alameda. For grades 4-5 the maximum class size is 32, while for middle school students it’s 33. In high school the maximum is 35, although the average is only 29, Knoth noted.

He added that the district is currently in contract negotiations with the teachers union, which include increased class sizes. Although Knoth declined to give a concrete timeline for the completion of the ongoing negotiations, he did say, “We should know pretty soon.”

Under the master plan’s worst-case scenario, the district would increase class size to 32 for K-6 and 35 for grades 7-12. If voters reject a parcel tax, this class size increase would be among a laundry list of cuts to resolve a projected $25 million deficit.

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