The South Orange-Maplewood School District is looking at ways to address overcrowding in some 7th grade classes at Maplewood Middle School.
The issue came to the fore after several teachers discussed class size with parents at Back to School Night on September 15. One 7th grade art teacher told parents she was teaching a class with 34 students and another with 30 students. Another 7th teacher discussed class sizes of about 30 students in a core subject area. (District policy guidelines are 20-25 students for core subjects areas such as English Language Arts, Science and Social Studies.)
In the aftermath, new Principal Dara Gronau sent a letter to families reading, “Due to budget considerations, our SOMSD central office was unable to maintain a third 7th grade Team Leader.” As a result, she reported, students from a the third team were split between the leaders of two other teams. “We apologize for the disruption. Your child’s schedule will not be affected and their classes will not change.”
At Monday night’s Board of Education meeting Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Ramos addressed the issue further, stating, “We are looking at class sizes at our middle schools. Some classes are currently above the average class size range. We are exploring ways to ameliorate these overages by possibly adding an additional team, and/or adding a 6th period to some teachers’ schedules in order to reduce class sizes.”
A spokeswoman for the district told Village Green that there will be a full class size report at the October board meeting.
The spokeswoman also shared district policy 2312 with Village Green which governs class sizes (see below). By the district’s own guidelines, as Dr. Ramos stated, the target sizes are being exceeded: The district aims to have between 20-25 students in core subject areas like Social Studies, Science and Language Arts at the middle school level.
The policy does state that the class sizes are a “desired range” and “planning tool” and not “rigid requirements” The policy reads, “The figures shall not be construed to mean that all classes must fit into the indicated ranges.”