The West Hartford school district’s enrollment on Oct. 1 was down 160 students from projected figures, according to Chip Ward, director of finance and planning.
Ward told the Board of Education at a meeting Tuesday that the actual enrollment of 9,557 K-12 students was fewer than the projected figure of 9,716 students made last year.
“We’re never able to predict exactly [what enrollment will be],” Ward said to the school board.
The biggest fluctuation was in middle school enrollment, which was down 46 students, 28 of which were in the sixth grade, Ward said.
Out of 222 class sections, just six exceeded class-size requirements of 25 students, Ward said. Three of the six are Aiken first grade classes and the other three are at Bugbee, according to Ward.
Additional teaching assistants were hired to help out in those classes and the district is working with those schools’ principals to assist as well, Ward said.
The average class size in the elementary schools is 20.2 students, while the average size in the middle schools is 19.5. The average class size in the high schools is 21, plus or minus a couple of percentage points depending on the class, Ward said. A world language class that has just one section might have a larger class size than the norm, for example.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen List said that studies have shown that smaller class sizes are more important for younger students, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Any reduction in class size should be used to optimize time [with the students],” List said. “It can’t be business as usual.”
School board member Terry Schmitt said that class size requirements are different today than they were in the past for a number of reasons.
Schmitt said that more is expected of students presently - that they all graduate from high school ready to attend college - than in the past. In addition, in the past, people may have attended schools where they were more likely to have a homogeneous student body without special needs children in the classroom.
Correction: the enrollment was down 160 students, not 60. West Hartford Patch regrets the error.“The classroom is radically different [today],” Schmitt said.